CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – While dozens of people stopped Tuesday to take pictures at the spot where Silent Sam once stood, a few gathered in support of a new proposal for something to replace the Confederate monument.
William Thorpe wants a memorial to soldiers who fought for the Union Army.
“The Union soldier is the best representation of the university’s motto, Lux Libertus. Light. Liberty. The Union soldier represented remarkable patriotism, valor, and morality,” Thorpe said. “We’re here on Dr. King’s birthday, Jan. 15, 2019, to raise awareness of the Union soldier who fought and died to preserve all of the rights that we all enjoy today.”
The federal holiday in honor Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday will be Jan. 21 this year, but Tuesday would have been the civil rights leader’s 90th birthday.
Thorpe, who is African-American, wore a blue wool outfit which replicated the uniform worn by the North during the Civil War. He said he wanted to highlight the roles of runaway slaves who joined the Union army in the fight for emancipation.
A 98-year-old World War II veteran in a matching uniform joined Thorpe and several others at McCorkle Place. That veteran’s birth came seven years after Silent Sam’s dedication.
“We’ve been bombarded by this (Confederate statue) for 105 years, so for the next 210 years, how about the Union soldier,” Thorpe said. “We’re here to bring light, and to bring love of America — love of its mission, and love of the University of North Carolina.”
He said the removal of Silent Sam could have happened decades ago. Thorpe said taking the statue down is an easy action, but the difficult next step is determine what should take its place. He marched from the now-empty slab to the UNC administration building, while carrying a flag with the university seal, as a demonstration of his proposal to honor Union soldiers.