'Victory Party' in Chapel Hill to celebrate Silent Sam's complete removal at UNC

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Tuesday was the first night since June 2, 1913, that a Confederate monument has not stood on UNC's Chapel Hill campus; and for student activists, that was something worth celebrating.


"This was a student-led movement," Michelle Brown told the crowd through a bullhorn on the steps of the post office adjacent to McCorkle Place where Silent Sam once stood. Student activists and community members gathered here for a "victory party" to celebrate Monday night's full removal of the monument they long argued represented white supremacy.

"It felt so good," Brown said. "I came out here at 2 a.m. when they were taking it apart and stayed until the truck pulled away with its parts and hopefully took it to a dumpster. I doubt that, but I'd like to think they did."

Brown, who graduated UNC last spring, has been a vocal critic of Chancellor Carol Folt's handling of the Confederate controversy. But Tuesday night, Brown celebrated Folt's decision to finally remove the pedestal that remained after the statue was toppled by protesters last summer.


Folt's decision on Silent Sam will be her last major move as the leader of the state's flagship university.

Folt arrived in Chapel Hill in July 2013 as UNC's first female chancellor - taking the helm in the aftermath of a bombshell academic fraud scandal that shook UNC to its core.

An external investigation, invited by Folt, revealed the system of fake classes used to keep athletes eligible to play was even worse than anyone thought, though the university receiving nearly nothing in the way of punishment.

But it was the controversy about Silent Sam that dogged all five years of Folt's tenure. She worked to build consensus about what to do with the monument, but it all came to a head Monday.


Folt's surprise resignation and decision to immediately remove all remnants of Silent Sam proved bold and costly.

UNC's Board of Governors voted Tuesday to speed up Folt's exit. They want her gone by the end of the month.

"Our focus is and always will be what's in the best interest of the institution and we felt strongly it was time to go ahead and make a change and allow the institution to move forward. And that's why we compressed the timeline," UNC Board of Governors Chairman Harry Smith told ABC 11.

Back at the "victory party", these social justice activists pledged to remain vigilant - concerned the BOG could name a replacement chancellor to undo Folt's decision.

"The fact that (Folt) made the decision it shocked me. I'm proud of her, didn't think that I would say that," Brown said. "I don't always agree with her, but I am proud of her for making the decision because she really didn't have to."


Carol Folt released a written statement late Tuesday afternoon following the BOG's decision:

"While I'm disappointed by the Board of Governors' timeline, I have truly loved my almost six years at Carolina. Working with our students, faculty and staff has inspired me every day. It is their passion and dedication, and the generosity of our alumni and community, that drive this great University. I believe that Carolina's next chancellor will be extremely fortunate, and I will always be proud to be a Tar Heel."
Copyright © 2019 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.