Harvard Law School drops seal after months of protests

In October 2015, students at Harvard Law School called for the removal of its shield because it was connected with the Isaac Royall family, who owned slaves and was accused of killing them. Nearly six months later, the shield is coming down.

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The school's dean said in a statement on the decision: "We cannot choose our history but we can choose that for which we stand. Above all, we rededicate ourselves to the hard work of eradicating not just symbols of injustice but injustice itself."

The Royall family gave an important endowment to the law school in the late 18th century and played a big part in establishing the law school. It was Issac Royall Jr.'s bequest that established Harvard Law in the first place, but the Royall family acquired much of its fortune through the slave trade and with slave labor.

Harvard Law adopted the shield in 1936. It's modeled on the Royall family coat of arms. But last fall, students began to voice concerns.

A group called Royall Must Fall demanded the removal of the shield in an open letter to law school Dean Martha Minow, saying: "Physical symbols are an expression of who we are and what we value as a community. The most ubiquitous of these symbols, the seal—which adorns all of our buildings, apparel, stationery, and diplomas—honors a slaver and murderer."

Students on campus held several demonstrations throughout the school year calling for the removal of the shield among other things, including occupying a law school lounge for several days and protesting in the dean's office.

In response, Minow put together a committee of faculty, students, alumni and staff to help make a decision. The committee recommended the school retire the Royall family coat of arms as its shield.

The change comes shortly after Harvard dropped the name "masters" to refer to faculty overseeing residential halls because of the term's association with slave holders.

The student organization who called for the removal of the symbol has yet to issue a statement on the decision, but the law school says is has already begun removing the shield from spaces on campus and online.

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Video includes clips from Harvard University and Harvard Law School and images from Getty Images.

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