Virginia History Professor Challenges Claim That Jefferson Designed ‘Serpentine Wall’ to Hide Slaves

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A longtime architectural history professor at the University of Virginia is questioning the idea that the Thomas Jefferson-designed “serpentine wall” surrounding the university’s lawn was built to hide slave labor, a claim made by activists who successfully pushed the school to remove a reference to the wall from its official logo.

Professor emeritus Richard Guy Wilson said that while the curved brick structures enclosed the professors’ gardens, where slaves likely worked, Jefferson did not intend for the walls to hide slaves from the public.

“I don’t think they were made for the explicit purpose of hiding slaves,” Wilson told the Washington Free Beacon. “Not to say there weren’t enslaved African Americans working there, but I don’t think it was there to hide them away.”

UVA’s decision to remove the walls from its logo comes as historical structures and figures across the country are under attack by activists who have called for the removal of all statues of people—including those of presidents—who have ties to slavery. New York City council members have called for the removal of Jefferson’s statue from New York’s city hall because he was a slave owner. Other logos, such as Quaker Oats’s Aunt Jemima pancake mix and syrup, are dropping their images and namesakes based on claims that the branding is based on racial stereotypes.

UVA came under fire last week for its new “V-sabres” logo, which was unveiled in April. Second-year student Lauren Cochran and assistant media studies professor Meredith Clark claimed the famous curved garden walls—depicted in the sabre handles’ ridged detailing—were used to conceal slaves and that the logos should be redesigned. Athletic director Carla Williams, who joined the school in 2017, said she decided to alter the logo after she was “made aware of the negative connotation between the serpentine walls and slavery.” – READ MORE

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