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University of Virginia changes logo to remove reminder of school’s link to slavery

The University of Virginia campus features serpentine walls, which were originally meant to keep slaves from public view.
The University of Virginia campus features serpentine walls, which were originally meant to keep slaves from public view.
(Steve Helber / Associated Press)

When the University of Virginia unveiled its new logos in April, the school was sure to highlight some new curves added to the handles of the crossed sabres that have traditionally stood for Cavaliers athletics.

The detail was added to mimic the serpentine walls that surround the garden space on the Charlottesville, Va., campus, the university said at the time.

But the Cavaliers introduced another set of new logos Tuesday, replacing the ones from the spring. Everything appears the same, with the exception of the sabre handles, which are again straight and smooth.

Turns out the serpentine walls aren’t exactly a source of pride for the school.

“After the release of our new logos on April 24th, I was made aware of the negative connotation between the serpentine walls and slavery,” Virginia athletic director Carla Williams said. “I was not previously aware of the historical perspective indicating the original eight-foot-high walls were constructed to mask the institution of slavery and enslaved laborers from public view.

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“Over the last few weeks, I have worked to better educate myself and that education will continue.”

The original serpentine walls were built in the 1820s and later removed for space issues. The current walls, shorter and with a wider berth, were constructed in the 1950s.

According to the Cavalier Daily, some students and professors voiced their objections to the new logos immediately after they were unveiled on April 24.

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“When U.Va. Athletics decided to incorporate the walls into their logo designs, I felt as if they were attempting to ‘glorify’ past University wrongdoings,” second-year student Lauren Cochran told the newspaper. “For many, this wall evokes stringent feelings of emotional distress and pain. As an African American student who walks past these walls every day, I experience uncomfortable emotions relating to the history and justification of the walls.”

The university is offering fans who already purchased gear with the controversial version of the logo the opportunity for an exchange.

“There was no intent to cause harm,” Williams said, “but we did, and for that I apologize to those who bear the pain of slavery in our history.”


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