A Harvard Law School committee is urging the removal of their controversial emblem. New York Magazine reported, that over the past several months, dissent over the school’s crest has served as the impetus behind the committee’s advisement. Harvard Law School has long displayed the crest known to have ties to 18th Century slave traders. New York Magazine goes on to explain Dean Martha L. Minow, gave a statement on March 4, 2016, and expressed that the crest denotes a message that no longer provides value to the institution. Therefore, she has urged the Harvard Corporation disassociate the school from the message the crest stands for.
Imagery on the crest depicts three sheaves of wheat from the Royall family’s coat-of-arms. Royall family patriarch Isaac Royall Sr., amassed great wealth as a result of slave trading. Ownership of a slaveholding plantation, as well as evidence that he encouraged and uses brutality in the quelling of a slave revolt, further casts a shadow over his family’s legacy. The Harvard Law School committee, in urging the removal of their controversial emblem is additionally justified, due to the fact Isaac Royall Jr. further contributed to the ownership of slaves by selling servants, while he lived in Massachusetts. It was Isaac Jr. who, upon his passing, bequeathed a large sum of money in order to establish the first law professorship at Harvard.
The Washington Post explained that events occurring at Harvard Law School are the latest in a movement that other universities have joined. As recently as 2015, Princeton University students expressed dissatisfaction with the connection the school has with former President Woodrow Wilson. Wilson’s connection to racist ideologies, as well as, his thoughts toward minorities, have long been a controversial topic for historians. The Washington Post reported that there are groups who resist altering traditions. This counter position revolves around the idea that institutions are obligated to the preservation of their history, and should not bow down to pressures inspired by political correctness.
Dean Minow’s release of her statement on March 4, has been recognized as the first step in combating racist depictions on campus. The Boston Globe explained that the group largely responsible for calling attention to the Harvard Law School crest calls themselves, “Royall Must Fall.” Royall Must Fall members posted on Twitter that as the systematic racism is torn down, much more needs to occur in order to achieve meaningful progress. The group continued, by calling into question Harvard Law School presenting itself as an institution that promotes justice. More incendiary tweets, express that the movement is necessitated by the overt white supremacy taking place at Harvard Law School.
The Harvard Corporation, taking into account the Law School committee’s urging of the removal of their controversial emblem, has the final decision. As they consider the arguments presented, they are challenged with the task of self-examination. New York Magazine explains that should the crest be removed from Harvard Law School, other issues arise. Many of the buildings on campus bear the names of individuals who have clear links to slave ownership. Recently, a straw poll yielded results that claim 54 percent of the students advocate for the removal of Harvard Law School’s crest.
By Garrett Sayers
Edited by Jeanette Smith
The Boston Globe: Harvard Law School Recommends Retiring Controversial Shield
The Washington Post: Harvard Law School Dean Asks to Change The School’s Shield Because of its Ties to Slavery
New York: Harvard Law School Wants to Get Rid of Its Racially Charged Emblem
Image Courtesy of Emmanuel Huybrechts’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License