The Rise and Fall of "Silent Sam"

The statue that came to be known as “Silent Sam” was erected at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC) in 1913 and dedicated to the memory of UNC students who had died fighting for the Confederacy during the Civil War half a century earlier. The statue depicts a Confederate soldier in the at-ready position—gun in hand—but without an ammunition box. Over the years, Silent Sam became the venue for many demonstrations about racial issues.[1] The _Winston-Salem Chronicle _took a special interest in the statue and kept readers up to date with the controversy by reprinting a string of Associated Press articles in the 2010s.

On July 9, 2015, the Chronicle republished an AP report covering an incident of vandalism of the statue over the weekend. An unidentified individual had spray-painted the words “murderer” and “black lives matter” on the monument.[2]

In November of that same year, the Chronicle reprinted another AP article reporting that UNC students had interrupted a university meeting on race relations, chanting “Whose university? Our university!” The students made several demands pertaining to racial issues on campus, including the removal of the Silent Sam monument. The AP report noted that a university task force had already made plans to place markers on McCorkle Place, where the statue was located, to provide the monument’s full historical context. However, this plan did not include removal of the monument itself.[3]

According to the AP, although many students, faculty, and alumni called for the statue’s removal, condemning it as a racist symbol, Chancellor Carol Folt and other UNC leaders claimed a state law prevented the school from removing the statue.[4] The law she referenced was the 2015 Cultural History Artifact Management and Patriotism Act, requiring the approval of the General Assembly for the removal of any monuments on public property that commemorate “an event, a person or military service that is part of North Carolina’s history.” [5]

Finally, students took matters into their own hands. On Monday, August 20, 2018—one year after the deadly Unite the Right riots in Charlottesville, VA—students toppled the memorial during a rally for its removal, bringing an end to Silent Sam’s presence on campus.[6]

The remains of the statue were initially moved to storage. In November of 2019, UNC agreed to donate Silent Sam to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, along with $2.5 million for the costs of its preservation and display. This agreement was made public minutes after the SCV filed a lawsuit against the University for possession of the statue.

However, in 2020, a judge overturned the settlement, arguing that the group had “lacked standing to bring its lawsuit in the first place.” The statue was returned to the UNC system and was still in storage as of this writing in 2024.[7]

Olivia Haynie


Associated Press. “UNC’s ‘Silent Sam’ Confederate statue vandalized.” Winston-Salem Chronicle, July 9, 2015.

Associated Press. “UNC students disrupt race meeting.” Winston-Salem Chronicle, November 26, 2015.

Luck, Todd. “Who owns this statue?” Winston-Salem Chronicle, July 23, 2015.

Winston-Salem Chronicle. “Protesters topple Confederate UNC statue.” August 23, 2018.

Wamsley, Laurel. “Judge Voids UNC’s Controversial Settlement Over Confederate Statue ‘Silent Sam’.”, February 12, 2020. Available at

  1. Associated Press, “UNC’s ‘Silent Sam’ Confederate statue vandalized,” Winston-Salem Chronicle. ↩︎

  2. Associated Press, “UNC’s ‘Silent Sam’ Confederate statue vandalized,” Winston-Salem Chronicle. ↩︎

  3. Associated Press, “UNC students disrupt race meeting,” Winston-Salem Chronicle. ↩︎

  4. Winston-Salem Chronicle, “Protesters topple Confederate UNC statue,” August 23, 2018. ↩︎

  5. Luck, “Who owns this statue?” Winston-Salem Chronicle. ↩︎

  6. Winston-Salem Chronicle, “Protesters topple Confederate UNC statue,” August 23, 2018. ↩︎

  7. Wamsley, “Judge Voids UNC’s Controversial Settlement Over Confederate Statue ‘Silent Sam’,” ↩︎