The defacing of a monument on the University of North Carolina’s campus was not only racist but also disrespectful to the memory of slaves who helped to build universities across the nation.
Individuals connected with the Heirs to the Confederacy were accused of vandalizing on Sunday an art installation and the Unsung Founders Memorial, a monument dedicated to the Black people who helped construct the university, The News & Observer reported.
Racist graffiti that included “hateful language and racial slurs” were written on them. The Unsung Founders Memorial is located near where the controversial Silent Sam Confederate monument once stood.
“These events challenge not only our most fundamental community values but also the safety of our campus. Lawless behavior will not be tolerated, and those found responsible will be held accountable for their actions,” said Interim UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz.
This comes as some of the nation’s oldest universities acknowledge the debt they owe to slave labor.
It has been a struggle, but some universities are taking small steps to acknowledge the past. In 2017 for example, Rutgers University, which was established in 1766, named the College Avenue Apartments in the heart of the New Brunswick campus for abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth, a former slave who was owned by the family of Rutgers’ first president Jacob Hardenbergh. Harvard University Law School in 2017 unveiled a memorial dedicated to slaves owned by a wealthy family whose donation helped endow the institution.
But the struggle continues. When it was learned that Georgetown University sold 272 slaves, including children, to ensure the school’s economic viability nearly 180 years ago, officials issued the standard apology to the descendants. The university offered the usual renaming of buildings and providing descendants of their slaves preferred admissions. But some argued that’s not enough.
In 2018, the then-chancellor of UNC apologized for the school’s history of slavery.
“As chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I offer our university’s deepest apology for the profound injustices of slavery, our full acknowledgment of the strength of enslaved peoples in the face of their suffering, and our respect and indebtedness to them,” Chancellor Carol Folt said during a celebration of the school’s 225th anniversary. “And I reaffirm our university’s commitment to facing squarely and working to right the wrongs of history so they’re never again inflicted.”
Repair and renovation of the Unsung Founders Memorial site was part of the plan. The monument, built by the class of 2002, features 300 bronze figurines supporting a black granite tabletop. The inscription around the edge of the table says: “The Class Of 2002 Honors The University’s Unsung Founders — The People Of Color Bound And Free — Who Helped Build The Carolina That We Cherish Today.”