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How 2 North Carolina Universities Handled The Removal Of Confederate Statues On Campus


To North Carolina now and a tale of two Confederate statues. Both have been removed. One was on a public university campus, the other at a private university. As Leoneda Inge of member station WUNC reports, that accounts for the different ways those Confederate monuments came down.

LEONEDA INGE, BYLINE: When thousands of students arrived for school this week at the University of North Carolina, a notable part of the campus landscape was gone.


INGE: The Confederate monument known as Silent Sam was toppled by students and activists earlier this week and hauled away. Lindsay Ayling is a graduate student at UNC. The day after, she was creating her own little monument, taping posters to what's left of the Confederate statue.

LINDSAY AYLING: These are the names of black students who should be memorialized as opposed to having a monument to white supremacy on campus.

INGE: Silent Sam had stood tall on campus for more than 100 years facing Chapel Hill's main street. It memorialized UNC students killed during the Civil War. Ayling says students were forced to take down the monument because the administration wouldn't.

AYLING: UNC maintained Silent Sam illegally despite the fact that they were violating the Civil Rights Act by maintaining a racially hostile learning environment.

INGE: UNC administrators say the only illegal acts have been the vandalism and destruction of property. They've asked the State Bureau of Investigation to help local police make arrests. Many people in Chapel Hill had called for Silent Sam's removal, but the university says there was little it could do because a state law forbids the removal of monuments on public property without permission from a historical board.

About 10 miles up the road from UNC is Duke University in Durham. New students and parents are touring Duke Chapel, the most prominent building on campus. At the entrance, there's an empty space where a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee once stood right between monuments of President Thomas Jefferson and poet Sidney Lanier - almost invisible, but in plain sight.

LUKE POWERY: In many ways, it blends in so naturally with the stone that it may not draw your attention to it, you know, unless someone points it out.

INGE: Luke Powery is dean of Duke University Chapel. After last summer's deadly protest in Charlottesville, Va., Duke quietly took the statue down in the middle of the night - no students, no protests, no state laws to get in the way. The private university even touts the removal in its campus brochures. Powery supports leaving the space empty.

POWERY: So we have to be careful in thinking that pulling something down solves something. You know, it might be a beginning. But let's be careful. Some of the additions or deletions may just be mere cosmetic, right? It's cosmetic surgery.

INGE: Tell that to UNC professor Altha Cravey, who says she has walked by the Confederate Silent Sam statue a thousand times in her 24 years on campus.

ALTHA CRAVEY: It's just incredibly beautiful to see the campus in this new way.

INGE: No word on what will happen to Silent Sam. Meanwhile, Robert E. Lee is being kept in a secure storage facility at Duke. For NPR News, I'm Leoneda Inge in Durham, N.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leoneda Inge is WUNC’s race and southern culture reporter, the first public radio journalist in the South to hold such a position. She explores modern and historical constructs to tell stories of poverty and wealth, health and food culture, education and racial identity. Leoneda is also co-host of the podcast Tested, allowing for even more in-depth storytelling on those topics.