The Legal Beat
Harvard Helps Preserve Slave Quarters As Part Of Reckoning With Its Law School’s History
Posted on Thursday January 26, 2023
Harvard, like Yale, Columbia, and several other Ivy League institutions, have made profits from chattel slavery. As archival work reveals the depths of the injustice and profit gained from the darker chapters of our history, Harvard has committed to educating the public about its complicated legacy. And this commitment isn’t just kind words and kneeling in Kente cloth — they’re putting their money where their ethics are. From Reuters:
Isaac Royall Jr made a donation to Harvard College in 1781 that would help establish its now famous law school.
It was money generated from the toil of slaves. Royall was the largest slaveholder in Massachusetts, and upwards of 60 men, women and children were forced to work on his plantation there.
On Wednesday, the law school said it is launching a new initiative to examine the role slavery played in its founding and help preserve the Royall family’s home and plantation, as a way to educate the public and Harvard students.
This is part of an ongoing commitment Harvard has made to attempting to clean the stain of slavery from its reputation. Harvard has moved through several stages in their aim to offer redress to their complicated history. They began to give serious thought to changing their slave-owner-honoring crest back in 2016. In 2021, they committed to and implemented a new design that didn’t have the markings of chattel as part of the pretty-making. Much better response than Ben Affleck’s response of trying to sweep history under the rug. And McGraw Hill for that matter. Academics that they are, Harvard actually released a 130-page report to the public that details their historical relationship to slavery. The discoveries therein formed part of the basis for their decision to pledge $100M to begin atonement. Said pledge may be what provided a very nice donation to a museum dedicated to preserving some of the few slave quarters remaining from chattel slavery.
Harvard will collaborate with the Royall House and Slave Quarters — a museum in Medford, Massachusetts that is among the last freestanding quarters where enslaved people lived in the north — to conduct research and collaborate on educational programming. It will also donate $500,000 to the museum for its operations and preservation of its historic buildings.
“Our community has for a number of years grappled with the painful history associated with the Law School’s founding,” law dean John Manning said in a statement.
Their decision to grapple with this painful history is laudable. Maybe a couple of years from now Harvard will look into making amends for the two teachers who had their Crim Law students create copaganda as a requirement for passing. Copaganda has had detrimental effects on the Black community — it’s part of why we’re in a situation where the police can beat your ass, steal your child for a photo-op, and the image would be shared on the internet as part of a feel-good story. This isn’t a hypothetical by the way; that shit actually happened.
If you’d like to learn more about this particular setting right in the meantime, you can discover more about the Royall House here:
Earlier: Harvard Law School Takes A Scythe To Its Wheat Crest
Harvard Commits $100M To Begin Addressing The Whole ‘Major Benefiter From Enslavement’ Thing
Harvard Law Professors Caught Using Final Exams To Outsource Copaganda
Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at [email protected] and by tweet at @WritesForRent.