The Speech

In almost every news article where someone attacks Silent Sam, they describe one event that happened 105 years ago.

It isn’t something that happened at the meeting of the United Daughters of the Confederacy when they decided to build a memorial to honor the soldiers who served the bloodiest war in U.S. history, as soldiers have been honored after every major war. Instead, it’s ‘The Speech’ given by Julian Carr the day he dedicated the statue – and there’s no arguing with the fact Carr gave a hateful speech.

So who was Julian Carr?

During the Civil War, Carr was a private in the Confederate cavalry. After the war he settled in Durham and went into business, making and selling the famous Bull Durham Tobacco. Carr was also a prominent Democrat who, Wikipedia reports, favored women’s right to vote, for which he was praised by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

In 1900, when Carr was a delegate the Democratic National Convention, he was one of four people who were nominated to be the Democratic Candidate for Vice President, on the ticket along with William Jennings Bryan.

Carr also donated part of the land Duke University now sits on, and Duke University’s Carr academic building was named for him. So was the town of Carrboro and, today, one of his former mills is the Carr Mill Mall in Carrboro. And just before he died, a decade after he gave ‘The Speech,’ he was honored with an honorary degree by UNC-Chapel Hill.

It’s sort of puzzling. Julian Carr’s legacies – like a town, an academic center, a University – are not controversial at all. But a bronze statue he helped dedicate is a public enemy. Could there be politics at work here? And, if so, where will this kind of politics carry us next? Will there be a movement to remove the words “Tar Heel” from the history books – after all, legend has it that’s part of our Civil War legacy too.


Leave a Reply