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Letter: Arlington County Should Change Its Logo

Arlington County’s official logo should be changed because of its “repugnant” association with slavery, at least according to one outspoken resident.

Susan Flaherty, an attorney who lives in the Rosslyn area, wrote a letter to the County Board calling for a replacement to the logo, which is a stylized representation of Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.

Noting that the mansion is the “former home of [a] slaveholder and enslaved persons,” Flaherty said that “maintaining the current brand/logo… will do damage to the county’s image.”

The letter follows a wave of statue removals, name changes and other actions to expunge Confederate symbolism in the wake of the events in Charlottesville last summer.

The Arlington School Board voted earlier this month to approve new school naming guidelines that would prompt the removal of Lee’s name from Washington-Lee High School. The county, meanwhile, has been pushing for legislative authorization to remove the name of Confederate leader Jefferson Davis from Route 1, as Alexandria recently did.

In response to Flaherty’s letter, an aide to Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol said that “budget constraints” currently preclude a redesign of the logo. However, the response (below) also pledged that the Board will “give the matter more thought as budget and staff resources become available in future years.”

Dear Ms. Flaherty:

I am writing at the request of Chair Cristol and the Arlington County Board to thank you for your message inquiring about the possibility of changing the Arlington County Logo. A copy of your message was provided to each of the Board Members.

As you may be aware, the Logo was last redesigned to reflect the County Seal some fourteen years ago through a time and resource intensive process. Unfortunately, given current budget constraints, the County lacks the resources to dedicate towards another redesign of the logo. I want to note however that the Board understands your concerns with the design, and will certainly give the matter more thought as budget and staff resources become available in future years.

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts with the County Board, and please let me know if there is any other way I can be of service.

Sincerely,

Mason Kushnir
Aide to Katie Cristol
Chair, Arlington County Board

Flaherty, in turn, said that “times have changed so much in the last year or so that this really needs to be made a higher priority.” Her full reply is below, after the jump.

Hello,

Thanks for the reply to my message asking you to take action now to change the Arlington County logo, which is a stylized image of the Lee mansion, former home of slaveholder and enslaved persons.

In response to your non-responsive reply to my message, it is hard to imagine that the county board could be so tone deaf as to ignore the changes of the last year or so. I think times have changed so much in the last year or so that this really needs to be made a higher priority.  I understand branding, have been through the process many times with my nonprofit organization clients, and how a brand is so important.

In the current climate, maintaining the current brand/logo associated with slavery is repugnant and will do damage to the county’s image.

Of course you can make budget priorities, other needs, etc, about any issue.  But then why would building and maintaining things like more dog parks be a higher priority than changing the county brand away from glorifying a slave owning past?

I would urge you to reconsider this and begin a process and find the money.   Join other entities are getting rid of these slavery references, e.g., Harvard Law School.  See the Washington Post article on ditching the slavery related logo.

A silhouette of the The Rosslyn skyline would make a more positive reference to the county’s pro business and smart growth rather than the negative slave owning past.

Thank you for your further consideration.

Best,

Susan L. Q. Flaherty, Esq. [Arlington County Resident]

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