UIC Removes John Marshall's Name From Law School Due to Slave Ownership

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The University of Illinois Chicago will remove the name of former Chief Justice John Marshall from its law school, citing Marshall’s “role as a slave trader and slave owner,” the school announced this weekend.

The John Marshall Law School will officially change its name to the UIC School of Law after receiving approval from the U of I’s board of trustees, the school announced Sunday.

According to a press release, the vote to change the name of the law school comes after a review by a task force comprised of students, faculty, staff and alumni.

“Despite Chief Justice Marshall’s legacy as one of the nation’s most significant US Supreme Court justices, the newly discovered research regarding his role as a slave trade, slave owner of hundreds of slaves, pro-slavery jurisprudence and racist views render him a highly inappropriate namesake for the law school,” the statement read, in part.

Marshall served as the fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1801 to 1835, remaining the longest-serving chief justice in the court’s history. He also served as Secretary of State under President John Adams.

The most famous opinion involving Marshall came in 1803’s landmark Marbury v. Madison case, which set the precedent for judicial review by the Supreme Court.

Marshall also presided over the trial of former Vice President Aaron Burr, who was accused of plotting to establish an independent nation in the western territories controlled by the United States. Burr was ultimately acquitted of the charges.

Marshall’s legacy has come under fire in recent years after new research showed that he potentially owned hundreds of slaves during his life, and frequently traded slaves as a way of funding his lifestyle.

According to the American Constitution Society, Marshall’s slave holdings may have led him to consistently side with slave-holders in cases brought before the Supreme Court.

“His jurisprudence was always proslavery, even when stare decisis, the rule that judges should abide by decided cases and apply their rules, favored the Black litigant,” the society wrote in a 2019 editorial. “Nor did public policy, insofar as it supported Black freedom, ever persuade him to rule for the Negro.”

Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School and Cleveland State University’s Cleveland-Marshall School of Law still bear the former chief justice’s name.

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