A swarm of angry protestors tore down a towering bronze effigy of a Confederate soldier at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 2018. The statue, named “Silent Sam,” had loomed over campus for more than a century. The downfall of Silent Sam sparked backlash on campus, but also struck a chord across the country, once again bringing the conversation on Confederate monuments to the forefront.
The incident became a flashpoint in an ongoing debate about public memorials that call up America’s problematic past. Proponents of tearing down Confederate statues and other remembrances of prominent racists say the memorials serve as reminders of a painful past; opponents, meanwhile, argue for the historical and cultural value of these markers. From debates on college campuses to the deadly 2017 riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, the controversy over Confederate monuments has fueled uproar in myriad communities, especially in the American South. But perhaps even more fundamentally, the felling of Confederate monuments encapsulates the lasting tension between Free Speech and the dark side of history.
Click here to familiarize yourself with the circumstances surrounding “Silent Sam” through the Free Speech Tracker entry on the subject: