With the Unsung Founders Memorial in the foreground, College of Arts and Sciences Dean Bernadette Gray-Little speaks at the dedication ceremony on McCorkle Place.
Descendents of the University’s unsung founders were among the guests at a dedication ceremony for the Unsung Founders Memorial. Installed on McCorkle Place on May 11, the memorial features a stone tabletop supported by 300 bronze figurines.
The ceremony, held Nov. 5, featured remarks by Chancellor James Moeser and Bernadette Gray-Little, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as 2002 senior class officers Ben Singer, president, and Byron Wilson, vice president.
As the memorial’s inscription reads, the piece “honors the university’s unsung founders the people of color bond and free who helped build the Carolina that we cherish today.”
“What we do today will not rectify what our ancestors did in the past,” Moeser said. “But this memorial, I believe, attests to our commitment to shed light on the darker corners of our history. Yes, the University’s first leaders were slaveholders. It is also true that the contributions of African American servants and slaves were crucial to its success.”
“One of the troublesome legacies of slavery is the pall that it casts over the family histories of those who were bought and sold,” Gray-Little said. “This monument finally recognizes the many unnamed whose toil and talent made the nation’s first public university possible.”
This memorial did not emerge from some committee of campus administrators or panel of faculty experts, Moeser said.
“This memorial arose from the inspiration of our students,” he said. “The Class of 2002 voted overwhelmingly in favor of creating this as their senior class gift. They voted overwhelmingly to make an honest judgment on difficult events.”
The class — joined by matching funds from the UNC Provost’s Office — raised $90,000 to build the memorial.
“Every class gift is important and special for us,” Moeser said. “This one, however, is important in a historic way. It is appropriate that it has been placed at this historic locale.Our most treasured landmarks stand here.”
Internationally renowned artist Do-Ho Suh created the piece. Suh’s major exhibitions include shows at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the Serpentine Gallery in London.
“Suh’s creation here on McCorkle Place is a splendid piece,” Moeser said. “One thing that has struck me is how it not only captures the spirit of the senior class’s intent, but provides a functional space that passersby already have embraced. Students sit here to study notes before class, spreading their books across the tabletop. Others come to enjoy a picnic lunch. In fact, this piece does for us what the people it honors did for us — that is, makes Carolina a better place to be.”
For more information on the memorial, visit: carolinafirst.unc.edu/seniors/2002.htm.