University of Virginia changes logo, removing design linked to school's history with slavery

The University of Virginia has made changes to the redesign of its athletics logo after receiving significant blowback. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

The University of Virginia has made changes to the redesign of its athletics logo after receiving significant blowback. The controversy arose because one element of the logo was designed to “mimic the design of the serpentine walls” found on campus — walls that once were built to hide slaves. 

The updated branding of the school’s “V-Sabre” logo and “Cavalier Shield” was unveiled on April 24 and featured detail on the grip of the sabres that resemble that of the serpentine walls.  

According to The Cavalier Daily, the walls were built in the 1820s and designed by university founder Thomas Jefferson to “hide enslaved laborers from the university community and muffle the sounds of their daily life.”

Virginia athletic director Carla Williams, who was hired in October 2017, announced the changes to the logos on Tuesday and said in a statement she was “not previously aware of the historical perspective” of the walls. 

“After the release of our new logos on April 24th, I was made aware of the negative connotation between the serpentine walls and slavery,” 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.

“Over the last few weeks, I have worked to better educate myself and that education will continue. There was no intent to cause harm, but we did, and for that I apologize to those who bear the pain of slavery in our history. As such, we have redesigned the logos to remove that detail. All other aspects of the logos will remain the same.”

You can see below where the curves were removed from the grip of the sabre handle in the logo:

(Virginia Athletics)

The university said in a news release that its athletic department has “started the process of replacing the logos with new versions that return to straight-line handles.”

The updated logos were part of a rebranding Virginia athletics underwent with Nike. The V-Sabre will continue to be Virginia’s primary logo with the Cavalier Shield mark as a new secondary logo.

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