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Janet Halley, When Brands Go Bad: The Rise and Fall, and Re-Rise and Re-Fall, of Isaac Royall, Jr., in Academic Brands: Distinction in Global Higher Education (Mario Biagioli & Madhavi Sunder eds., 2022)

Abstract: This Chapter tells the story of the author’s Chair – the Royall Chair at Harvard Law School – and of its donor and his marks. Isaac Royall, Jr., was during his lifetime the largest slaveholder in colonial Massachusetts. The Isaac Royall, Jr., brand has risen, and fallen, and risen again, and fallen again in political struggles spanning from his grandfather’s arrival in Maine as an indentured servant, to Isaac Royall, Jr.’s own precipitous flight from Boston after the commencement of the American revolution, to his former slave Belinda’s struggle for her due at his hands in which she denounced him for exploiting her, to Harvard University’s acceptance of his bequest of the Royall Chair, to the University’s adoption of his heraldic shield as a symbol of the Law School, to the conversion of the hagiographical Royall House museum to the Royall House and Slave Quarters, to a years-long struggle over racial justice at the Law School. It is the story of both the fragility and the durability of a brand that is rich in social meaning and unimportant enough to be transformed into the language of ever-shifting contemporary political struggle. It ends in medias res, the author being uncertain what comes next.