Inspired by the Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) movement, whose campaign resulted in a Cecil John Rhodes statue being removed from UCT, a group of Harvard University students in the US have successfully campaigned to have a “racist” crest removed from campus.
Harvard University is a private Ivy League institution and the Massachusetts law school is part of one of the world’s leading educational bodies, which includes US President Barack Obama among its alumni.
The student activists campaigned for the removal of the crest at Harvard Law School (HLS), which shows three men buckled under the weight of sheaths of wheat. It was modelled on the Royall family crest.
Plantation owner Isaac Royall was a notorious 18th century slaver who bequeathed land to Harvard College to establish the first professorship in law at the school.
Royall treated his slaves with extreme cruelty and is known to have burnt 77 slaves to death. A group of Harvard students established Royall Must Fall last year after drawing inspiration from RMF at UCT.
HLS formed a committee to investigate the crest following protests and sit-ins by Royall Must Fall.
In its report to the Harvard Corporation last week, the committee said: “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.”
HLS dean Martha Minow endorsed the departure of the crest in a message to the campus. “Its association with slavery does not represent the values and aspirations of the Harvard Law School.”
After the decision was announced that the crest would be replaced, Royall Must Fall said: “This does not represent the final destination, but only an advance in the struggle for racial justice against white supremacy at Harvard Law.
“Royall Must Fall will continue to fight against this racism and to ensure that this school becomes the justice school it holds itself out to be.”
RMF spokesperson Alex Hotz said the movement was honoured to know that its “decolonisation efforts” at UCT were inspiring students abroad.
“It gives us renewed energy when we see that what we are doing here has inspired others abroad. The decolonial concept of Rhodes Must Fall has never been just for UCT.
“Similarly our decolonial project started at UCT’s history faculty,” Hotz said.