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Harvard, Antigua and Barbuda Discuss Educational Partnership

Massachusetts Hall, which sits in Harvard Yard, houses the office of University President Lawrence S. Bacow.
Massachusetts Hall, which sits in Harvard Yard, houses the office of University President Lawrence S. Bacow. By Kathryn S. Kuhar
By Michelle G. Kurilla and Ruoqi Zhang, Crimson Staff Writers

University President Lawrence S. Bacow and a representative from the island of Antigua and Barbuda are discussing educational partnerships after the country’s prime minister sent a letter to Bacow requesting reparations for the school’s ties to slavery.

University spokesperson Jason A. Newton wrote in an email to The Crimson Friday that Bacow and Antigua and Barbuda’s United States Ambassador Sir Ronald M. Sanders recently spoke and agreed to another conversation about future academic collaboration.

“I can confirm that there was a call between President Bacow and Ambassador Sanders, and that they agreed to a follow up discussion on how Harvard and the University of the West Indies might collaborate in ways consistent with our academic mission,” Newton wrote.

Reparations to Antigua and Barbuda were not part of the discussion, according to a report from the Miami Herald. In late October, Antigua and Barbuda's prime minister, Gaston A. Browne, wrote a letter to Bacow demanding reparations for the school’s historical ties to slavery.

“Reparation from Harvard would compensate for its development on the backs of our people,” Browne wrote. “Reparation is not aid; it is not a gift; it is compensation to correct the injustices of the past and restore equity. Harvard should be in the forefront of this effort.”

Bacow announced a new University-wide initiative last month to research the schools’s historical ties to slavery. Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Dean Tomiko Brown-Nagin will serve as the head of the initiative’s faculty committee.

The research initiative comes roughly a month after Bacow apologized for using the 13th Amendment as an analogy to compare the University’s wealthy donors to slaves at an Alumni Affairs and Development staff meeting.

The Oct. 30 letter from Browne details how Isaac Royall Jr., a plantation owner and slave trader who operated in Antigua, donated money to Harvard in 1815 to create the first endowed law professorship. Royall Jr.’s family crest became the seal of Harvard Law School in 1937.

In 2016, Harvard Law School removed its seal following research that revealed its ties to slavery. The seal featured three sheaves of wheat and adorned the school’s doors, chairs, apparel, letterheads, web pages, social media avatars, and the banners that typically served as the backdrop to each graduating class’ commencement ceremony.

The Law School replaced the Royall crests with a crimson seal with “Harvard Law” written across the front in the spring of 2016.

Harvard Law School Dean John F. Manning ’82 announced a working group to develop a new seal in an email to students in late November.

“As many of you know, HLS retired its former shield in 2016 after historical research revealed that Isaac Royall, Jr., on whose family crest the shield was based following a bequest to Harvard College in 1781, earned his wealth through the labor of enslaved people,” Manning wrote. “Working in conjunction with the University and the Harvard Corporation, we will move forward with the proposal of a new shield that fits within Harvard’s suite of shields and that represents the broad aspirations of Harvard Law School.”

— Staff writer Michelle G. Kurilla can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MichelleKurilla.

—Staff writer Ruoqi Zhang can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RuoqiZhang3.

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