Unsung Founders Memorial

The Unsung Founders Memorial is an art installation located on McCorkle Place, dedicated to the African American people who helped build the university. The piece, created by artist Do Ho Suh, features bronze figures holding up a black stone table, surround by five stone seats. Inscribed on the top is, "The Class of 2002 honors the university's unsung founders, the people of color bond and free, who helped build the Carolina that we cherish today." The senior gift of the class of 2002, it was installed and dedicated on November 5, 2005. Descendants of enslaved university workers attended the dedication, along with university leaders and students. Suh designed the piece to be accessible and interactive, noting that, "when you touch it and sit on it, and use it, . . . you become part of it." He also noted that the seats were inspired by the rocks that mark some of the graves in the African American section of the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery.

While its installation represented a landmark moment for a predominately white institution to acknowledge its debt to enslaved people, the memorial has been criticized for its appearance. The low profile of the piece and the implicit encouragement to sit at a table being held up by the depicted enslaved people seems to convey their oppressed condition and to diminish their achievements. The monument has also been criticized for its proximity to the much larger and more prominent Confederate Monument that stood nearby on McCorkle Place until 2019.


Date Established: 2005

Date Range: 2005 – Present

Unsung Founders Memorial, 2005. Photograph by Sarah Arneson / Carolina Alumni Review.