Union Soldier Campaign Urges UNC to Change 'Tar Heels' Due to Confederate Ties

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJuly 15, 2020

SOUTH BEND, IN - FEBRUARY 17: The North Carolina Tar Heels logo is seen on the shorts of a North Carolina Tar Heels player during the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Purcell Pavilion on February 17, 2020 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

A group of protesters are calling on the University of North Carolina to change its nickname from the Tar Heels, citing its relationship to the Confederacy.

William Thorpe, the director of the Union Soldier Campaign, says the term "tar heels" celebrated Confederate soldiers who held their ground against Union troops during the Civil War.

"They stood their ground as if they had tar on their heels...if you call yourself a Tar Heel…you're cheering for the essence of white supremacy," Thorpe said, per the News & Observer

The Union Soldier Campaign is asking North Carolina to change its name to the Rams, which would allow them to keep the same logo and color scheme.

North Carolina history professor Jim Leloudis said the term was meant to demean slaves or poor white people. 

"It's hard to untangle," Leloudis said. "The term, at first, is derogatory in terms of race and class, then gets turned into a symbol of Confederate pride and loyalty."

The original origins of the Tar Heel nickname are unknown. North Carolina chose its name in the 1880s, not long after the end of the Civil War and during a time when the term was still colloquially known as an insult. 

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