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Letter to the editor

Replacing the Chapel's statues

In light of calls for the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee from Duke Chapel and the vandalism that occurred Thursday morning, I’ve compiled a list of alternatives to the “___ of the South” statue series to adorn the Chapel entrance. As a North Carolina native and an honors history graduate, I’m particularly concerned with current absence of North Carolinians, and particularly those with Duke connections, from the entrance. This list intends to fix that:

Statesman of the South: Terry Sanford. Serving as governor, U.S. senator, and president of Duke, Sanford was a champion of desegregation and public education. Just four days after Alabama Governor George Wallace’s infamous “segregation now, segregation forever speech”, Sanford gave a speech calling for equal opportunities for all North Carolinians and an end to discrimination in the state. Terry Sanford represents the best North Carolina and Duke have to offer, and would be a fitting native replacement for Thomas Jefferson.

Poet of the South: Maya Angelou. While not originally from North Carolina, Angelou chose North Carolina as her home for much of her later life. She wrote countless works of literature and poetry, and was a champion of civil rights. Many Duke Alumni will recall fondly the annual address she gave to incoming freshman within the Chapel. Angelou serves as an inspiration for generations, and adding her image to the Chapel edifice would be a grand way of honoring her. This statue would replace that of confederate soldier Sidney Lanier

Warrior of the South: Washington Duke. Like Lee, Duke was a Confederate. But beyond that very little serves to unite the two. Lee was a wealthy Virginia planter. Duke was just a step above “white trash.” Like many lower class North Carolinians, he opposed secession, and only went to war when forcibly drafted by Confederate authorities. Because of its large supply of poor white manpower, North Carolina sent more troops to the Confederacy than any other state. However, it also holds the record for highest desertion rate from any state, North or South. Replacing Lee with Duke acts as a means of representing the true face of the ‘southern warrior’ from North Carolina: not a gallant slave owner leading troops into battle, but the unwilling soldier, forced into service for a cause he did not support.

This is not a definitive argument for who needs to be represented in the Chapel. I do hope, however, that this helps to begin a constructive discussion on potential alternatives.

Jonathan Hill is Trinity '17.


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