Summary: After removing their official crest due to ties to slavery, Harvard Law has not decided on a replacement design yet.
Harvard Law School received requests two years ago to remove the crest from the official seal after its ties to a slaving-owning family were brought into the spotlight. The law school finally yielded to the proposal last year, removing the controversial crest of The Royall family, according to The Harvard Crimson.
Isaac Royall Jr. was a big part of the law school in the late 18th century. His donation funded the first Harvard professorship of law. Unfortunately, the great Royall family was slave owners. They had slaves at their home in Medford as well as on their Antigua and Barbuda plantations. When students became aware of this fact, the activists formed a group called “Royall Must Fall.”
Once the school removed the crest from the seal in March 2016 at the recommendation of a separate Law School committee, they vowed to select a new one by 2017, in time for their bicentennial celebration. The celebration is near its end and there still is no official seal.
During an interview last month, Law School Dean John F. Manning said that they are focused on the school’s capital campaign and bicentennial so selecting a new seal has been put off to a later date. He said, “It’s been a very busy year. We’ve had a very packed year with the bicentennial celebration, with the final year of the campaign, and this year we’ve had the bicentennial logo; HLS 200 has been on all our mugs and sweatshirts and hats. We will think about replacing the seal at some future point.”
Manning added that he wants to make sure the right attention is given to choosing a new seal by adopting a “fair and effective” method with input from Law School affiliates on how to select a new seal. He explained, “We want to think about what is a fair and effective process is identifying a new seal. This is my first year as dean, I’ve been going around and had lots of interaction with the community, with faculty, staff, students, and alumni, and in coming up with decision-making processes, it helps me to hear from a lot of constituents. … I’m dealing with a lot of lawyers and a lot of people who care about Harvard Law School, and so I’m asking around to see what people think would be a good process for identifying a new shield.”
The law school had moved quickly to remove the seal from the campus and website when the decision was made to ditch it as their official seal. There are still a few seals left, one specifically on the door of a Harvard-owned property at 10 Mt. Auburn St.
Dean for administration at Harvard Law, Matthew Gruber, said in an email to The Harvard Crimson, “As soon as the Corporation accepted the recommendation to retire the shield, the School undertook an effort to remove all known instances of it from campus locations, print materials, licensed products and web content that we had catalogued during a comprehensive inventory. Since then, we have infrequently come across instances of the shield and have promptly removed them.”
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To learn more about the procession of deciding to remove the crest, read these articles:
- Harvard Law Reviews Its Crest with Slaveowner History
- Harvard Law Places Plaque Honoring Those Once Enslaved by Royall Family
- Harvard Law Moves Closer to Removing School Seal