Archived Opinion

The problem with Sylva Sam

The problem with Sylva Sam

To the Editor:

Recently I decided to take a closer look at the new plaques added to “Sylva Sam,” Jackson County’s 1915 Confederate monument. The wording on the larger plaque is noticeably careful, almost tiptoeing around the elephant in the room.

You see, still standing tall and proud above those newly worded plaques is Confederate soldier “Sam.” The problem with that (though rarely mentioned) is the cause for which he fought and what he represents. It’s time to face the historical facts.

Like all Confederate soldiers Sam fought for disunion of our country. He swore allegiance to the self-proclaimed Confederate States of America and pledged to uphold and defend its constitution. That constitution enshrined into irrevocable law the “right of property in negro slaves.” (See article 1, section 9 and article 4, section 3 of the Confederate States Constitution) 

Even though Sam himself may not have owned any “negroes,” he was willing to fight for the right to do exactly that. Ultimately, all Confederate soldiers fought for the right to own human beings as property. (To see some of the property Southerners fought for the right to own, go across the street to Bridge Park and take a look at the stunning Harriet Tubman statue, which will soon be leaving. That says it all: Sam on a pedestal, Harriet on the ground, running.)

Now, Sam could be your ancestor (or mine), but does that make the cause for which he fought honorable, or even defensible? It’s an important question. Some would argue that because Sam was a product of his time, he should not be judged by today’s moral standards. However, that’s exactly what we should do. In fact, today we are called upon to acknowledge the truth about why Confederates fought and to honestly accept the facts of history.

The bottom line is this: in 2021 we know better than to memorialize the Confederacy in public spaces, even in a veiled sort of way as with this statue. The new plaques do not, and cannot, transform the soldier on the pedestal into something he’s not. Sam was never meant to represent “veterans of all wars,” but specifically and solely Confederate veterans of the Civil War. As originally stated in 1915, the statue was erected to honor “our heroes of the Confederacy,” and sadly it still does. Let’s face it, his fight was not honorable. Therefore, it’s time to do the right thing and take Sam down. Adding new plaques to an old monument and to an old narrative cannot cover up the truth.

Faye Kennedy

Whittier

Leave a comment

10 comments

  • Don't like it? Then move. Because WE are not letting it go anywhere. Worry about Whittier.

    posted by Kenneth Derico

    Tuesday, 12/28/2021

  • Don't like it move. Because WE are not letting it go anywhere.

    posted by Kenneth Derico

    Tuesday, 12/28/2021

  • It never surprises me how many people there are out there trying to create division and hard feelings and twist the truth! The author of this post , Faye Kennedy, needs to study up on the real cause of the Civil War. Check out https://civilwarcause.com/CWIntroduction.html . This will help people understand better what the Civil War was about. A lot of what is going on now in the Democratic run white house sounds real similar to some of the things that lead up to the Civil War. They divert from the real truth while to whole time they are turning peoples life upside down and causing a lot of hate and division. I have never seen such division between political parties and I feel this is the biggest threat we currently face in America! It is not going to get any better until parties work together and the main stream media and big tech stops brainwashing people with all their lies and twisted truth.

    posted by Steven Rich

    Monday, 12/27/2021

  • I said, back in 1980-something, that there should be a statue of a slave next to Sylva Sam, with a plaque honoring “The slaves, without whom there would be no “hero’s of the confederacy.”” My friends told me I would get myself killed talking like that. Germany does not have monuments honoring Hitler or the Nazis. The United States, as a nation, needs to relegate all tributes to the confederacy to the history museums and stop coddling white supremacists and racism in all its ugly forms. Among those of us who work in race reconciliation we have an analogy for racism: It’s like an iceberg. What you see is only the tip, if you knock off the tip it resurfaces, it spawns babies, and if it ever touches the ocean floor it destroys everything living or growing on that bit of ground that it touched. Nothing can grow there for a very long time after.

    posted by Helen Geltman

    Monday, 12/27/2021

  • Today I woke up having no clue about this statue. Having just read this article I still do not care about this statue. I live in the now and have no desire to be part of hate mongering for any side. Calling me white is racist as I am a American and the color of any Americans skin should never be how you identify them. The past is the past and I cannot change it and not will I dwell on it in a attempt by others to create racial hate.

    posted by John

    Monday, 12/27/2021

  • Thank you Faye. Very well stated, clear and to the point.

    posted by Beth

    Monday, 12/27/2021

  • Well said.

    posted by Lorna Barnett

    Sunday, 12/26/2021

  • Well said.

    posted by Lorna Barnett

    Sunday, 12/26/2021

  • Thank you. We are once again facing a huge division in our country over the same subject, do white folks have a right to control our society, over the wishes and needs of the rest of its citizens? The radicals on the right are working towards the same goal as then, making all the rules for the rest of us to follow. Equality is definitely not the goal.
    By glorifying and forgiving the intent of the civil war, the hatred will surely rise again.

    posted by Deni Gottlieb

    Sunday, 12/26/2021

  • Truth.

    posted by Avram Friedman

    Friday, 12/24/2021

Smokey Mountain News Logo
SUPPORT THE SMOKY MOUNTAIN NEWS AND
INDEPENDENT, AWARD-WINNING JOURNALISM
Go to top
Payment Information

/

At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.