Justice

Portraits Of Every Black Professor At Harvard Law Were Covered In Black Tape

CREDIT: Kidist Keaton

The morning after Harvard students and affiliates rallied in support of national calls for racial justice on campuses, someone has apparently vandalized the portraits of black professors at the law school.

Photos tweeted by Harvard PhD candidate Clint Smith show the portraits of tenured African American law professors, which are displayed in the law school’s main building, marked by black slashes of tape across their faces.

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CREDIT: Kidist Keaton

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CREDIT: Kidist Keaton

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CREDIT: Kidist Keaton

Leland Shelton, the president of the Black Law Students Association, told ThinkProgress that he viewed the incident as a hostile action. It “wasn’t done by an ally. It wasn’t in support of black students and black professors,” Shelton said.

Shelton began receiving text messages from concerned students about 8:30 on Thursday morning.

Students walked out of classes Wednesday afternoon and gathered in solidarity with anti-racism protests sweeping other colleges like University of Missouri and Yale. They were joined by Harvard officials including University President Drew Faust and Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana.

Besides sharing the broader concerns raised by students at other colleges, Harvard Law students have some specific demands. They are calling for changes in the law school’s official seal, which features the family crest of Isaac Royall Jr., a prominent slaveowner who helped found the school.

Shelton said that these efforts have been met by hostility from some quarters, citing an op-ed in the Harvard Law Record earlier this month describing efforts to combat racism as “fascist.”
Harvard Law Record

Recent research by a visiting law school professor who called the plantation owner “a coward, and a brutal slaveholder,” traced how the Royall family’s plantation profits contributed significantly to Harvard Law’s endowment.

Georgetown University recently agreed to students’ calls to rename two buildings named after university leaders involved in the slave trade. Other universities are starting to reckon with their own historic ties to slavery as part of the broader movement to combat racism on campuses across the U.S.