Judge Rejects Civil Rights Group’s Attempt to Nix UNC’s $2.5M Deal with Confederate Organization Over Civil War Statue

A judge decided on Friday to deny the motion filed by a civil rights group to intervene in the settlement made between the University of North Carolina and a Confederate group over a controversial Civil War statue called ‘Silent Sam’.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights filed a motion to stop the $2.5 million settlement between the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors and the North Carolina Sons of Confederate Veterans for the monument, but a judge said there was a lack of standing in the case by the plaintiffs, WNCN reported.

On Monday, Kristin Clarke, the president and executive director of the committee, said in a statement, “the University of North Carolina System has abdicated its responsibilities under its mission to the students, faculty, the university community and the people of North Carolina by striking this deal with a neo-Confederate group.

“We stand with the students and faculty in condemning this deeply flawed settlement that finds the UNC system complicit in financing white supremacist activity,” her statement continued.

In the motion, the civil rights group demanded the board members recover the $2.5 million it gave to the confederate group.

“The Board of Governors’ secret negotiations, lack of transparency and false statements to the court, UNC students and the public is unacceptable,” De’Ivyion Drew, a sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill and one of the students mentioned in the motion, said in the statement. “These actions violate the Board of Governor’s duties to me as a student of this university and undermine UNC’s mission. The university’s agreement to give $2.5 million to the Sons of Confederate Veterans will help that group and other neo-confederates continue to perpetuate the ahistorical and dangerous ‘Lost Cause’ ideology. That ideology is a major obstacle to racial equity and reparative measures in our country.”

UNC attorneys told WNCN that although the plaintiffs claim the settlement has caused students on campus to devalue their education and harm their emotional health, there is no concrete evidence of that.

“We agree with the court’s ruling today that the individuals seeking to intervene in the case and set aside the settlement agreement lacked standing to do so,” UNC System General Counsel Thomas Shanahan told the news station. “The UNC System remains committed to protecting public safety and to ensuring that the monument does not return to the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. We stand ready to provide additional information as requested by the court.”

What We Know

  • The ‘Silent Sam’ statue, which used to reside at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was toppled in 2018, The New York Times previously reported. The monument, which was erected in 1913, was in remembrance of “the sons of the University who died for their beloved Southland 1861-1865,” according to UNC. Some believe that the statue, which depicts a confederate soldier holding a rifle, is a symbol of racial oppression. The takedown of the statue came a year after racist and violent protests erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, over a confederate statue.

  • The motion filed by the civil rights group states that on November 27, the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) filed a lawsuit against the University of North Carolina and its Board of Governors. The group reportedly claimed that the statue belonged to them and “asked the Court to force the university to reinstall the monument on the university’s campus at the original location from where it had been removed in 2018.”

  • A few short minutes after the lawsuit was filed, the motion filed by the civil rights group claims that a consent order was entered to settle the case, ordering the university to “transfer ownership of the monument to the SCV and to pay $2.5 million to establish a custodial trust for ‘the preservation and benefit’ of the monument.”

  • That same day, the university said in a statement the UNC system had settled the disposition for “Silent Sam”, stating it would use non-state funds to give $2.5M to the SCV for “care and preservation of the monument.” Jim Holmes, a member of the UNC Board of Governors, said in a statement: "The safety and security concerns expressed by students, faculty, and staff are genuine, and we believe this consent judgment not only addresses those concerns but does what is best for the university, and the university community in full compliance with North Carolina law.”

  • Students expressed outrage over the school’s decision. In November, the UNC Black Congress wrote on Twitter: “[The] Interim Chancellor says the issue has now been ‘resolved’. Yet students are still facing legal penalization for standing up against white supremacy and the institution has still failed to ever fully interrogate their complicity with white supremacy on this campus.”

  • On Monday, the UNC board members wrote in an op-ed in the Raleigh News & Observer that it also paid the Confederate group nearly $75,000 to limit the display of Confederate flags and banners on university campuses. The board members defended their decision, stating “compromise was a necessity.” The board members wrote: “We were given the responsibility to resolve a deeply divisive and personal issue. While we have heard from citizens from across this state who have expressed their gratitude for our efforts of finding a solution to this issue, we also acknowledge that others strongly disagree with the board’s decision to approve a settlement.”

Why It Started

After acts of violence by white supremacists, confederate flags and monuments have been taken down across the U.S. A month after white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine Black churchgoers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, the state permanently removed a Confederate flag that had been flying at the Statehouse.

Other states like Texas, Florida and Virginia have removed monuments and Confederate symbols, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The center has counted over 100 monuments and symbols that have been removed since the Charleston shooting.

Despite this, as of 2019, there are 1,747 monuments, place names and other symbols of the Confederacy still in existence in the U.S., including 780 monuments,103 public K-12 schools, three colleges, 80 counties/cities and 10 U.S. military bases named after Confederate officers and leaders, as well as nine observed state holidays honoring the Confederacy, according to the SPLC report. A 2015 report from The Washington Post found that there are seven states in the U.S. with flags that still have Confederate symbolism.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.