Harvard Law School has decided to drop its crest because of links to an 18th century slave owner, Isaac Royall.

The Royall family’s coat of arms is included in the emblem because the Royall family funded the first full professorship of law at Harvard. However, the Law School committee noted that Isaac Royall was also known for “extreme cruelty”, including burning 77 slaves alive.

The announcement comes a month after Oriel College decided that its Rhodes statue would remain, despite the protestations of the Rhodes Must Fall Oxford (RMFO) movement.

Following months of student protests and sit-ins at the inclusion of the Royall family seal on the Law School crest, Harvard Law School is now accepting calls for the withdrawal of the seal. The School was written to the Harvard governing body asking for the shield to be removed from the official crest.

The decision to remove the emblem was not unanimous, however, with two members of the 12-strong Law School committee arguing that the School’s crest should retain the Royall family seal.

The School’s dean, Martha Minow, reporting to the University’s ruling body, said, “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.”

In a message to staff and students, Dean Minow said the shield had become “a source of division rather than commonality in our community” and because of the associations with slavery it should be “retired”.

RMFO expressed support for the Harvard movement and welcomed the decision to remove the Royall seal from the Law School’s crest.


Cherwell has contacted RMFO for comment.

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