More than five years after the Harvard Corporation endorsed Harvard Law School’s decision to drop its shield, associated with slavery, it approved the school’s replacement. The new shield was developed by the HLS Shield working group, first meeting in 2020, and design companies PopKitchen and Studio Rainwater.

“I am grateful to our community for participating in this important process and for the values ​​and aspirations it attributes to HLS,” Dean John F. Manning wrote in an email. “Members of our community shared with the task force that, due to the vast scope, depth and diversity of HLS, law school does not represent a school of thought, but is a place where people productively engage around many approaches, methodologies, and viewpoints in the pursuit of truth and knowledge.

Only the traditional Harvard motto veritas spread over three open books seems to carry over from the old design. An additional Latin phrase is added below the motto: Lex and Iustitia (“Law and justice”). The rest of the shield features eight overlapping curved lines, inspired by details found in the arches and windows of HLS’s Austin and Hauser Lobbies.

“The traditional elements of the shield speak of the history and the anchoring of the school, while the more modern forms reflect its continuous evolution and its ambitious nature”, according to an explanation on the HLS site. “When combined with color, the multiple radiating lines express internal energy, light and strength, conveying a multi-faceted and nuanced community, none of which defines it on its own. The description and design follow the three themes highlighted by the task force chaired by Loeb University professor Annette Gordon-Reed: a diverse and pluralistic community, leadership that changes the world for the better, and the fundamental pursuit of law and justice.

The new shield replaces the original design, first implemented in 1937, which displayed the crest of the Royall slave family, whose fortune endowed the school’s first faculty chair. It was the 2015 book On the Battlefield of Merit: Harvard Law School, the First Century, co-authored by former visiting professor Daniel Coquillette, JD ’71 and Bruce A. Kimball, M.Div. ’78, Ed.D. ’81, which brought this story to light. Although a 2016 report admitted that there was no evidence that the Harvard Corporation of 1936 knew that Isaac Royall Jr. owned slaves, a committee of HLS faculty, students and alumni recommended that the school drop out the old badge. “We cannot ignore what we know now, and neither should we,” the report argued. “Law school today would not honor Isaac Royall and his legacy by using his crest as an official symbol.” In 2017, the HLS commemorated the names of 60 slaves held by the royal family in a plaque placed in the center of the school’s campus. “Our school was founded with the wealth generated by the deeply immoral institution of slavery,” Manning said during the unveiling of the monument. “We must not hide this fact or hide it.… To be true to our complicated history, we must also shed light on what we are not proud of.”


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