Uncovering the Past, Politicizing the Present: Exploring UNC's Racialized History

The project focused on our relationship as students and community members of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to the inherently racialized histories of our campus which manifest themselves as prominent spatial landmarks. We explore the implications of monuments such as Silent Sam, the prominent statute on McCorkle Place erected during a strong white supremacist campaign that toured the South after the fall of the confederacy. The University often ignores the troubled history of Silent Sam and conversation about his significance for students of color who may feel uncomfortable and unwelcome due to its presence is often stifled. Many other UNC buildings, such as Saunders Hall, named after KKK leader William L. Saunders, share similar histories. Through an exploration of the untold stories/alternative histories of UNC as an institution but also as part of a wider community with profound and often problematic historical roots, focusing on Silent Sam, we hope to draw connections between our identities and the historical weight of the spaces we inhabit. Using interviews, archival footage and audio, and performance art, we created a visual ethnography of an often-invisible racialized space. By instigating further conversation on alternative histories, we are attempting to address the collective historical amnesia we suffer from as a community.

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