UNC black alumni hope Silent Sam never returns

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- UNC alumni back on the Chapel Hill campus for homecoming see many familiar sights. But the Silent Sam statue, pulled down by protesters on August 20, is still missing. University leaders have it stored at an undisclosed location until there's a decision on its fate.

"Every class speaks! The students have spoken, and the black alumni I've spoken to absolutely support them," said Billie Burney Scott, from Carolina's class of 1989. She and others who applaud the statue's removal agree with Julian Rosemond.

Rosemond, a Navy veteran and UNC Class of '75 alumni, remembers "What the gentleman, the sponsor had said the day he put the statue up, about just previously 'beating a wench' in the street for talking back to a white woman. There's just no place for that type of ideology in my home state, which I am proud of, but I'm not proud of that statue. I'm glad it's gone."

A group organized by Concerned Black Alumni of UNC-Chapel Hill spent time in conversation about the Confederate statue as well as a smaller memorial a short walk from the empty Silent Sam pedestal.

It's the Unsung Founders memorial, donated by the class of 2002. Janine Belll, UNC Class of '78, said the group paused to honor "African American ancestors who built this university, who made the bricks, laid the bricks, detailed the interior."

A press statement issued by the group says its grateful "to students and faculty who have lifted a veil of silent acceptance, hopefully this final time." The statement also says "that the statue, its pedestal, its prominent placement at the University's front door step and its history by its toppling has grown the value of our experience and burnished our Carolina pride because it shows that 'The University of the People' can make itself more embracing of all the people when it moves beyond outmoded ideas that may be part of the past but hopefully are not the future of this great, diverse and welcoming state."

The group has the support of Ava Greene, Class of '84, who with her brother, two of her sisters and her son followed the lead of her father, one of the first black persons enrolled in UNC-Chapel Hill's law school before Carolina welcomed all students, regardless of race.

"He was ostracized and it was a hard time, but he made it through," Greene said. "And he was the first black judge elected in Wake County. So the Greene legacy runs deep through Carolina, and Silent Sam doesn't have a place in any of that."

"It shouldn't be in a public space," said Billie Burney Scott. "It should be in a space where people can choose, if they want, to interact with it."

The statue's fate remains unclear. Republican lawmakers want it returned to its traditional position on campus, 90 days after its removal. That date's November 20, and we'll let you know what happens.
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