University of Illinois Drops Chief Justice John Marshall’s Name From Law School, Citing Slavery

May 25, 2021 Updated: May 25, 2021

University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) is going to remove the name John Marshall from the its law school because of the judicial giant’s connection to slavery.

According to a press release, the UIC John Marshall Law School will be renamed the UIC School of Law, effective July 1.

The name change came after a “thorough and carefully studied process that included input from all corners of the institution and beyond, considered issues of racial injustice and aimed to ensure that our university continues to be a place where diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity are supported and advanced,” UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis said.

Sometimes considered one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, John Marshall was born in 1755 and served as the fourth Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Over his 35-year leadership, Marshall cemented the Court’s role as a check against unconstitutional laws, transforming the weakest branch of federal government into an equal player with the executive and legislative branches.

A UIC task force, however, decided that it’s “highly inappropriate” for a law school to be named after Marshall, who allegedly has a history of trading slaves and ruling in favor of slavery.

The task force’s report, issued in February, said that despite Marshall’s legacy as one of the nation’s most significant Supreme Court justices, the “newly discovered research regarding his role as a slave trader, slave owner of hundreds of slaves, pro-slavery jurisprudence, and racist views render him a highly inappropriate namesake for the law school.”

The UIC task force also urged the two remaining Marshall law schools—Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School and Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, to drop the name.

In a May 23 unsigned editorial, The Wall Street Journal questioned whether the true intention behind the change was actually related to slavery or racism in the early days of the United States, suggesting it might have to do with progressives’ attempt to send a message to the current Supreme Court.

“This autumn the Supreme Court will begin what could be its most consequential term in years, with abortion and gun rights on the docket. Marshall’s insight that an independent judicial authority could serve the national interest by balancing against political authorities is as relevant as ever,” The Wall Street Journal editors wrote.

“Some progressives want to throw that out the window, and instead intimidate the Court into their desired policy outcomes. Maybe that’s the real reason they want us to forget Chief Justice John Marshall,” they added.