Another town placing legacy of hate where it belongs –
with those who thought South was right

When I arrived as a freshman on the campus of the University of North Carolina, I thought it one of the most beautiful places I’d ever seen.

I didn’t change my mind when I passed a statue whose origin I didn’t know and whose purpose I never questioned.

We girls were told why he was there within a week of arrival. He would, every upperclassman worth his salt explained, fire his rifle every time a virgin walked by.

He was Silent Sam. He has been silent since 1913.

But this week, thanks to a movement to topple symbols of hate across the country, Silent Sam will not be just silent, but gone.

He is but another statue honoring hate and division. And he is departure places the memory and legacy of another Confederate soldier right where it belongs – with those who thought they were right.

In life, he was John Wilson, another relic from a massive effort by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to keep alive the memory of a mission to retain slavery and continue the diminishment of black people.

John Wilson didn’t mean anything to me then, but he does now, now because when Donald Trump woke up sleeping hate and told those silently reveling in it that it was time to “take  our country back,” black people knew what he meant. So did white supremacists.

He didn’t mean those whom John Wilson sought to subjugate: He meant those who believed what John Wilson did.

The Daughters funded many statues and roads across America to ensure the memory of the side that lost the American Civil War. That memory is finally being forced where it belongs off public land where because this is America should not be celebrating it.

So from now on, every time someone asks me why don’t we leave slavery in the past, I can point to a statue and say: Why didn’t America?

ROCHELLE RILEY’s essays on this blog are personal. No reprints without permission. You can read her newspaper columns at
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