Harvard Law School to Scrap Crest over Links to Slavery

Barney Henderson, Telegraph, March 5, 2016

Harvard Law School has decided to drop its crest because of links to an 18th Century slave owner in the latest race row to engulf a leading university.

The Massachusetts law school, which is part of one of the world’s leading educational bodies and includes President Barack Obama among its alumni, formed a committee to investigate the crest following protests and sit-ins by students.

Students campaigned for five months for the removal of the crest and established a group called Royall Must Fall, whose name is based on the Rhodes Must Fall group that campaigned for the removal of a Cecil Rhodes statue at Oriel College, Oxford.

The decision was announced on Friday that the crest should be replaced because it includes the seal of plantation owner Isaac Royall–a notoriously brutal 18th Century slaver.

The crest, which states “Veritas” and shows three sheaths of wheat, was modelled on the Royall family crest and was adopted as the symbol of the law school in the 1930s.

It is widely used on buildings, merchandise and stationery at the law school.

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“We believe that if the law school is to have an official symbol, it must more closely represent the values of the law school, which the current shield does not,” the committee said in its report to the Harvard Corporation.

The Royall Must Fall group said in a statement: “This does not represent the final destination, but only an advance in the struggle for racial justice against white supremacy at Harvard Law.

“’Royall Must Fall’ will continue to fight . . . to ensure that this school becomes the justice school it holds itself out to be.”

Royall was the son of an Antiguan slaveholder known to have treated his slaves with extreme cruelty, including burning 77 people to death.

The slave-owner and businessman played a key role in the establishment of Harvard Law School. He left land to Harvard College to establish the first professorship in law at the school and Harvard Law School was later founded in 1817, 36 years after Royall’s death.

Dean Martha Minow endorsed the departure of the crest. “Its association with slavery does not represent the values and aspirations of the Harvard Law School,” she said in a message to campus.

The row over the crest is one of several race-related issues that have triggered protests at the university in recent months.

Portraits of several black professors were found vandalised at the college in November, a day after a campus rally for black students.

Racially charged protests at the University of Missouri in November sparked a wave of demonstrations and frank discussions about race at many other campuses.

Harvard students have called on the law school to open a diversity office, among other demands.

Last week Harvard also decided to retire use of the title “house master” to denote staff who head up undergraduate residences, instead calling them “faculty deans” after students protested that the term harked to slavery.

In Britain, campaigners were furious in January when Oxford University’s Oriel College refused to remove a statue of Rhodes, the 19th century imperialist, a white supremacist who endowed the Rhodes Scholarship, which has helped students from across the world study at the university.

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