Harvard Law Will Study Whether to Change Seal

December 1, 2015

Martha Minow, the law dean at Harvard University, on Monday announced that she had appointed a panel to study whether the law school should change its seal, which many black students and others say honors a man with a terrible history. The seal (at right) is the crest of arms of Isaac Royall, whose bequest endowed the first chair at the law school. Students have advocating changing the seal because of Royall's ties to slave labor. As Minow write in an announcement of the study, "Royall was the son of an Antiguan slaveholder known to have treated his slaves with extreme cruelty, including burning 77 people to death." She appointed historians on the faculty "to lead a process for soliciting the views and perspectives of all within our community -- students, alumni, faculty and staff -- on whether the Royall crest should be discarded from our shield. Through that process, we will gain a better sense of what course of action should be recommended and pursued, and we will discuss and understand important aspects of our history and what defines us today and tomorrow as a community dedicated to justice, diversity, equality and inclusion. We will also have an opportunity to do what all lawyers must do if they are to be effective, which is to truly listen to the perspectives and experiences related by others.”

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