Information about Harvard Law School Library

The founding of the law department came two years after the establishment of Harvard's first endowed professorship in law, funded by a bequest from the estate of wealthy slaveowner Isaac Royall, Jr. , in 1817. Royall left roughly 1,000 acres of land in Massachusetts to Harvard when he died in exile in Nova Scotia, where he fled as a British loyalist during the American Revolution, in 1781, "to be appropriated towards the endowing a Professor of Laws . . . or a Professor of Physick and Anatomy, whichever the said overseers and Corporation [of the college] shall judge to be best. " The value of the land, when fully liquidated in 1809, was $2,938; the Harvard Corporation allocated $400 from the income generated by those funds to create the Royall Professorship of Law in 1815. The Royalls were so involved in the slave trade, that "the labor of slaves underwrote the teaching of law in Cambridge. " The dean of the law school traditionally held the Royall chair, deans Elena Kagan and Martha Minow declined the Royall chair due to its origins in the proceeds of slavery. Nevertheless, Royall’s legacy at Harvard is lasting, Harvard Law School adopted the Royall family crest as apart of its school crest. That crest features as blue background, with three bushels of wheat. Until recently the connection of the seal to the slave owning Royalls was unknown to many. According to The Harvard Crimson "Most Law School alumni and faculty were unaware of the story behind the seal. " In response to its ties to slavery, Harvard Law School decided to stop using the Royalls seal. It has yet to design a replacement seal.