The University of Virginia has removed one small detail from the athletic department’s new primary and secondary logos that inadvertently referenced the school’s history with slavery.
The logos, which were originally unveiled on April 24, previously featured curves on the grip of the sabres that mimicked the design of the serpentine walls found on campus. It was later discovered the eight-foot high walls were constructed to hide enslaved laborers from the community, thus drawing widespread criticism from students, faculty and alumni.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
According to university archives, university founder Thomas Jefferson wanted the serpentine walls to be at least six or eight feet tall so that enslaved people could not see beyond them and to prevent those on the outside from seeing the daily tasks of those inside. Those walls were removed in the 1950s to make space in the alleyways on campus and subsequently replaced with wider and shorter walls of the same design.
The logos, meanwhile, are part of a new brand identity for the Cavaliers, which includes a beveled primary mark, two new secondary logos, a revised color scheme and associated typography. The grips could notably be seen on V-Sabre and the Cavalier Shield, but not in the hands of the sword-bearing Cavalier.
“It’s exciting and it maintains U.Va.’s sense of history and a strong connection to the past,” Williams said at the time of the rebrand. “It pays homage to our tradition and what we hope our future will be, which is to be bold, creative, innovative, competitive, fierce and fiery. The new marks and logos have all of those qualities in each one of them.”
Virginia is in the process of replacing those logos with new versions that return to straight-line handles. Fans who purchased apparel with the logos unveiled this spring are asked to contact the athletic department via email.
Photos via the University of Virginia.