Harvard Law School Concedes to Protests, Drops Seal Tied to Slave Owner Isaac Royall

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File photo via the Associated Press
File photo via the Associated Press

After years of controversy and bad press, Harvard Law School has decided to retire the seal of notorious slave owner Isaac Royall.

For almost six years, Harvard faculty and students have raised concerns over the use of the family seal of Isaac Royall. The seal — which depicts three bundles of wheat — has represented the law school for nearly a century and was adopted in 1937 to honor Royall’s contribution to the university.

Royall was a wealthy landowner — in addition to exploiting enslaved Black people. He granted land that led to the creation of Harvard in 1779.

The Associated Press reported that Royall donated his estate to create the first law professorship at Harvard. He inherited his estate and many enslaved people from his father, who was known for his cruelty and brutality. Student protests,  which shocked the university for months, helped push the law school to get rid of the seal.

In addition to the seal, there are other remnants of Royall’s history of slave-owning on the university grounds.  The Royall House and Slave Quarters were built by the wealthy slaveholder and are still being used today.

In February, Boston.com reported that Harvard Law School students occupied Wasserstein Hall on the university campus to rid the school of its ties to the institution of slavery. The group, Reclaim Harvard Law, took over the building and renamed the hall “Belinda Hall” — a nod to a former enslaved woman of the law school’s donors.

Titles like “House Master,” a term that was used by the leaders of Harvard dorms, were still being used until protests and outrage from students got it removed.

Harvard’s governing body says the law school should propose a new shield that better represents its values, according to the AP.

The law school’s decision to drop the seal is one of the many changes to rectify the university’s connection to slavery.

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