Harvard’s law school, one of the most prestigious educational bodies in the world, announced Friday it would scrap its official emblem depicting a crest, in a row about slavery.
The shield, which says “Veritas” and shows three sheaths of wheat, was modeled on the family crest of a notoriously brutal 18th century slaveholder. It was adopted as the symbol of the law school in the 1930s.
Student campaigners have protested for five months for its removal, as demonstrations about race have increasingly rocked campuses in Britain and America.
Last week Harvard also decided to retire use of the title “house master” to denote staff who head up undergraduate residences, instead calling them “faculty deans” after students protested that the term harked to slavery.
Harvard Law School is the alma mater of a number of prominent US politicians and lawyers, among them President Barack Obama.
The school set up a 12-member committee of staff, students and alumni to review the crest, and recommended 10 to two that the shield be axed.
“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,” the committee said in a report.
The shield is modeled on the coat of arms of the family of Isaac Royall, whose bequest endowed the first chair of law at Harvard.
Royall was the son of an Antiguan slaveholder known to have treated his slaves with extreme cruelty, including burning 77 people to death, the law school said.
Dean Martha Minow endorsed the departure of the crest.
“Its association with slavery does not represent the values and aspirations of the Harvard Law School,” she said in a message to campus.
In Britain, campaigners were furious in January when Oxford University’s Oriel College refused to remove a statue of 19th century imperialist Cecil Rhodes, a white supremacist who endowed the Rhodes Scholarship, which has helped students from across the world study at the prestigious university.