Harvard Law School Seeks to Distance Itself From a Legacy Tied to Slavery
Filed in African-American History on March 22, 2016
The Harvard Corporation, the chief governing body of Harvard University, has approved a resolution calling for discontinuing the use of the current shield used by Harvard Law School. The shield is modeled after the family crest of Isaac Royall and has been in use at Harvard Law School since 1936.
Royall was the son of a slave owner in Antigua. Royall moved his family — and 27 slaves — from Antigua to Medford, Massachusetts, in the early 18th century. Proceeds from the sale of land held by estate funded the establishment of Harvard Law School.
Last October, law students began an organization called “Royall Must Fall,” that called for a new seal to represent the law school. The seal itself is not offensive, showing only three bushels of wheat.
Martha Minow, dean of Harvard Law School, said in a statement that “the opportunity to consider a new symbol allows us to engage in a productive and creative focus on expressing the School’s mission and values as we continue to strengthen its dedication to intellectual rigor and truth, to reasoned discourse and diverse views, and to a community marked by mutual respect and inclusiveness. Our constant efforts to marshal talent to serve justice and to advance human freedom and welfare are the best way to symbolize the ideals of Harvard Law School. We cannot choose our history but we can choose that for which we stand. Above all, we rededicate ourselves to the hard work of eradicating not just symbols of injustice but injustice itself.”