Slavery Connection Likely Dooms Harvard Law's Shield

Commission says it doesn't 'represent the values' of the school
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 5, 2016 5:04 PM CST
Slavery Connection Likely Dooms Harvard Law's Shield
Harvard Law School is likely to drop its official shield over its connections to a slaveholding family following a commissions recommendation Friday.   (Harvard Law School via AP, File)

In all likelihood, Harvard Law School's 80-year-old crest will soon be history due to its connection to a slaveholding family. The Guardian reports a 12-member commission of faculty and students officially recommending doing away with the shield on Friday. “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 recommendation states. Their decision will be passed on to Harvard's governing body, which is likely to approve it, according to the New York Times. The recommendation follows months of protests by students.

The shield depicting three bushels of wheat is based on the crest of the Royall family, which made its fortune using slaves in Massachusetts and the Caribbean and was instrumental to the founding of Harvard Law School. The two dissenting members of the committee—a professor and student—argued the shield honors the slaves who died to make the Royalls wealthy and, therefore, helped found the law school. “I sincerely believe that we owe it to the enslaved to work through those feelings and think of ways to carry their stories forward," professor Annette Gordon-Reed tells the Times. "We should do that in a way that shows the inherently entwined nature of the good and bad of our past." (More Harvard Law School stories.)

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