Chapel Hill, NC—The Make It Right (MIR) Project put up a billboard in Chapel Hill this week calling attention to North Carolina’s “Heritage Protection Act,” a law put in place to ensure Confederate monuments remain standing. MIR’s signage was erected a little over a month after activists toppled the Confederate statue known as “Silent Sam,” which had stood for more than a century at the main entrance to the UNC–Chapel Hill campus. The heritage law, in tandem with inaction by college administrators, had prevented the statue’s removal despite 50 years of protests and legal challenges from students, faculty and community activists.
“North Carolina’s heritage law—which prevents localities from removing Confederate markers without approval from the Republican-dominated legislature—protects more than 95 Confederate statues and other monuments to the army that fought to defend slavery,” said MIR Director Kali Holloway. “These markers defy the realities of history. In passing this law, North Carolina’s state government has said unequivocally that it supports this corruption of historical fact, and remains invested in a system defined by its racism and oppression of black people.”
“The 2015 Heritage Protection Act was signed into law when challenges to Confederate iconography mounted after the 2015 murder of nine black church parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina,” said UNC–Chapel Hill historian William Sturkey. “The law was enacted with the explicit intent to disenfranchise and disempower North Carolinians. It was a tacit statement of support for white supremacy.”
“More than 20 people have been arrested since Silent Sam was taken down, and all but one were anti-racist activists protesting white supremacists who continue to gather where the monument stood,” said Maya Little, whose demonstration against Silent Sam last April galvanized hundreds of other activists. “For years, police officers guarded Silent Sam 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, ensuring the statue’s safety. The monument came down in August, but tributes to the Confederacy around the state are still protected under the law. Apparently, North Carolina’s state government is more concerned with protecting its Confederate monuments—overt symbols of white terror—than in protecting its black and brown communities.”
The MIR billboard is located on U.S. Route 15, also known as 15-501, a heavily traveled stretch of road that connects Durham and Chapel Hill. The billboard image features multiple Confederate statues, along with the message, “North Carolina Is Still Protecting Dozens of Confederate Statues.” The billboard follows other MIR billboards demanding Confederate monument removal erected in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Charlottesville, Virginia.
The Make It Right Project is dedicated to working with multiple groups—activists, artists, historians and media outlets—to remove Confederate monuments and develop post-removal protocols to tell the truth about history.