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UNC Leaders Propose History Center To House 'Silent Sam'

In August 2018, protesters toppled Confederate statue "Silent Sam" on the UNC Chapel Hill campus.
Jasmin Herrera

UNC Chapel Hill leaders proposed Monday to move a toppled Confederate statue into a new $5 million building on the outskirts of campus. Seeking to balance security with strict state historical laws, leaders said the "Silent Sam" statue would be moved to a site a mile south of where it previously stood.

The plan presented by Chancellor Carol Folt was overwhelmingly approved by the campus trustees, though at least one voted no. The separate Board of Governors that oversees the statewide university system will have final say over the plan for the statue. The statewide board is expected to consider it at a meeting Dec. 14.

Folt proposed a site south of the university's hospital and west of its basketball stadium to build a new history and education center that would house the statue that was torn down by protesters in August. Folt said the new building in the Odum Village area of campus would cost about $5 million. She said it was too early in the planning to discuss a timetable for construction.

The Chancellor and several of the trustees said they would have preferred moving the statue off campus entirely, but they were restricted by state laws on Confederate statues and other monuments. That law sets strict criteria for moving such objects of remembrance, including that they are somewhere that's similarly prominent and accessible to their original location.

"Silent Sam" had stood on a main campus quad from the time it was erected in 1913 until it was torn down in August by protesters who decried what they described as its racist origins.

The new building would also have room to hold classes and display other historical exhibits to contextualize the university's history, Folt said.

The site was previously home to housing for graduate students and students with family. The university has been tearing down buildings there to prepare it for new phases of campus. The "Silent Sam" plan identifies it as a growth area for the campus.