Harvard Law School Founded by Slave Owner
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Harvard Law School

Summary: Students at Harvard Law School are unhappy about the history of the law school and demand that the school remove its affiliation with a former slave owner.

A group of students at Harvard Law School want the history of Harvard changed. While slave ownership is not necessarily something to celebrate, it is something that is a part of our country’s history. This includes the history of Harvard and Harvard Law.


Isaac Royall Jr. was a slave owner, but so were a lot of people, especially wealthy people, back in the 1700’s. Upon his death in 1781, he left Harvard College with a substantial gift, allowing the formation of Harvard Law School.

In honor of his contribution to the school, the school’s seal was replicated after the Royall family’s coat of arms. The fairly small movement at the school “Royall Must Fall” is calling for the crest to be removed. Another student group, Students for Inclusion, writes on their Tumblr page, “We demand the removal of the Harvard family crest as the crest of the law school and we demand that the Royall Chair of Law be renamed as well.”

Visiting law school professor, Daniel R. Coquillette, published the book, The Saga of Harvard Law School, which describes the Royall family’s relationship with Harvard. He calls Royall a “coward, and a brutal slaveholder,” but “as a historian…you just deal with the fact that this guy founded the school and tell the truth about it. To change things is to act like [they] didn’t happen, and that’s a mistake.”

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