Harvard Law Bulletin recently released a special issue commemorating HLS’s 200th anniversary:
A Memorial to the Enslaved People Who Enabled the Founding of Harvard Law School
On a clear, windy afternoon in early September at the opening of its bicentennial observance, Harvard Law School unveiled a memorial on campus. The plaque, affixed to a large stone, reads:
In honor of the enslaved whose labor created wealth that made possible the founding of Harvard Law School
May we pursue the highest ideals of law and justice in their memory
Harvard Law School was founded in 1817, with a bequest from Isaac Royall Jr. Royall’s wealth was derived from the labor of enslaved people on a sugar plantation he owned on the island of Antigua and on farms he owned in Massachusetts.
“We have placed this memorial here, in the campus cross-roads, at the center of the school, where everyone travels, where it cannot be missed,” said HLS Dean John Manning ’85. …
Harvard University President Drew Faust… also spoke at the unveiling, which followed a lecture focused on the complicated early history of the school.
“How fitting that you should begin your bicentennial,” said Faust, “with this ceremony reminding us that the path toward justice is neither smooth nor straight.” …
Halley, holder of the Royall Professorship of Law, who has spoken frequently about the Royall legacy, read aloud the names of enslaved men, women, and children of the Royall household from records that have survived, “so that we can all share together the shock of the sheer number, she said, “and a brief shared experience of their loss.”
“These names are the tattered, ruined remains, the accidents of recording and the encrustation of a system that sought to convert human beings into property,’ she said “But they’re our tattered remains.”
This commemorative issue also contains an interview with ImeIme Umana, Harvard Law Review’s 131st president, “How Have Harvard Scholars Shaped the Law?”:
How has legal scholarship changed since the Law Review began publishing more than a century ago?
Scholarship certainly has changed over time, and these pieces, whether or not they acknowledge it to a great extent, are consistent with the changing nature of the legal field in that they bring more voices to the table and more diverse perspectives. If you look back at our older scholarship, you’ll tend to see more traditional, doctrinal, technical pieces. now, they’re more aspirational, more critical, and have more social commentary in them. It’s a distinction between writing on what the law is and writing on what the law should be, and asking why things are the way they are.
BTW, you can purchase the Harvard Law Review on Amazon.
What Kind of scholarship do you find especially meaningful?
I’m really passionate about the sate of the criminal legal system and civil rights. The cherry on top within those topics is scholarship that proposes new ways of thinking or challenges the status quo.
One of my favorite articles is [Assistant] Professor Andrew Crespo’s “Systemic Facts” [published in the June 2016 Harvard Law Review], because it does just that. The thesis is that courts are institutionally positioned to bring about systemic change, and that they can use their position to collect facts that they are institutionally privy to. It calls on them to do that such that we might learn more about how the legal system is structured.
I’ve noticed the increased emphasis on criminal law lately, especially bail reform.
The Law Review was founded 130 years ago, and now you are its president. Do you ever get caught up in thinking about the historical implications of running such a well-known and influential publication?
… Looking at it through a historical lens, the diversity of the student body and Law Review editors and authors is especially meaningful, as it makes legal institutions more inclusive, and therefore the law more inclusive. It’s important to keep pushing in that direction and never become complacent. The history is very important.
You are the first black woman who was elected to serve as president of the Law Review. Why do you think it took so long for that to happen?
Ive thought about it a lot and I just don’t know the answer. My thought is that it just tracks the lack of inclusion of black women in legal institutions, full stop. It’s a function of that. There’ always more we can be doing to be more inclusive. The slowness of milestones like this might have a broader cause than just something specific to the Law Review.
It probably tracks closer to the inclusion of Nigerian women at Harvard than black women. Umana is Nigerian American, and Nigerian Americans score significantly better on the SAT and LSAT than African Americans. (Based on average incomes, Nigerian Americans do better than white Americans, too.) So I’m going to go out on a limb and wager that significant black firsts at HLR are due to the arrival of more Nigerian and Kenyan immigrants, rather than the integration of America’s African American community.
While reading about ImeIme Umana, I noticed that American publications–such as NBC News–describe her as a “native” of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. By contrast, Financial Nigeria proudly claims her as a “Nigerian American”:
Born to Nigerian immigrant parents originally from Akwa Ibom State in Nigeria, Umana is a resident of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, United States. Umana graduated with a BA in Joint Concentration in African American Studies and Government from Harvard University in 2014. She is currently working on a Doctor of Law degree (Class of 2018) at the Harvard Law School.
The issue is full of fascinating older photographs with minimalist captions, because the graphic design team prefers white space over information.
For example, on page 58 is a photo of a collection of students and older men (is that Judge Learned Hand in the first row?) captioned simply 1926 and “Stepping up: by 1925, lawyers could pursue graduate degrees (LL.M.s and S.J.D.s) at HLS.
<- Seated in the front row is this man. Who is he? Quick perusal of a list of famous Indians reveals only that he isn’t any of them.
There is also an Asian man seated directly behind him whose photo I’ll post below. You might think, in our diversity obsessed age, when we track the first black editor of this and first black female head of that, someone would be curious enough about these men to tell us their stories. Who were they? How did they get to Harvard Law?
After some searching and help from @prius_1995, I think the Indian man is Dr. Kashi Narayan Malaviya, S.J.D. HLS 1926, and the Asian man is Domingo Tiongco Zavalla, LL.M. 1927, from the Philippines. (If you are curious, here are the relevant class lists.)
I haven’t been able to find out much about Dr. Malaviya. Clearly he associated with folks in high places, as indicated by this quote from Hindu Nationalism and the Language of Politic in Late Colonial India:
In Allahabad, during a meeting attended by Uma Nehru, Hriday Nath Kunzru and Dr. Kashi Narayan Malaviya, M. K. Acharya made the link between the politics of the nation and the plight of Hinduism very clear…
(Unfortunately, it appears that he has a more famous relative named Madan Mohan Malaviya, who is coming up in the search results. His great-grandson is single, however, if any of you ladies are looking for a Brahmin husband.)
1926 was during the period when America ruled the Philippines, so it would be sensible for Filipinos to want to learn about the American legal system and become credentialed in it. Domingo Zavalla went on to be a delegate to the Philippines’s Commonwealth Constitutional Convention (This was probably the 1934 Convention: “The Convention drafted the 1935 Constitution, which was the basic law of the Philippines under the American-sponsored Commonwealth of the Philippines and the post-War, sovereign Third Republic.”)
That’s about all I’ve found about Zavalla.
How quickly we fall into obscurity and are forgotten.
4 thoughts on “Cathedral Round-Up #30: HLS’s Bicentennial Class”
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I have discovered that many of the “First Blacks”, “First Hispanics”and “First Asians” at various institutions were not actually the first – they were often preceded by others of their race in the 20’s 30’s 40’s, or even earlier. What is usually meant by those who claim firsts is “First DISGRUNTLED Black, Hispanic, or Asian”, or “First Black, Hispanic, or Asian admitted for political/affirmative action reasons, as opposed to merit”. The interesting examples that you found bear this out.
Universities are long on stories but short on people to record them, so memories quickly fade into nothing but a list of names and sports scores. Then you have this warped perspective of history (“Well of course Harvard didn’t have any black students in the 1800s”) that leads people not to even look for stories.
The Ivy League has always been interested in extending its memetic reach beyond whites, though.
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