UC Berkeley removes Boalt’s name from its law school

UC Berkeley has removed references John Henry Boalt from its law school after a research paper revealed his connection to racist policies against Chinese immigrants in the late-19th century. (Photo by Joseph Morris/Flickr)

The University of California at Berkeley has removed from its law school the name of a man whose 19th century writing helped stoke anti-Chinese racism in the country.

Boalt Hall, named after John Henry Boalt, has been the name of the main classroom wing at the UC Berkeley School of Law and has often been used to refer to the law school itself, with many of its graduates having been called “Boalties” over the years.

John Henry Boalt.

But in 2017, attorney and UC Berkeley law lecturer Charles Reichmann found Boalt’s racist writings at a campus library and published his findings.

Boalt’s 1877 address to the Berkeley Club called “The Chinese Question” helped lead to Congress enacting the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, the nation’s first immigration ban on a group solely on the basis of race or nationality, according to the school.

In October, UC Berkeley’s Building Name Review Committee voted to recommend removing Boalt’s name from the building, a decision that was later approved by Chancellor Carol Christ and UC President Janet Napolitano.

Boalt Hall is now known as The Law Building, and the law school is in the process of removing more casual uses of the Boalt name, which was used in some student and alumni organization names and the law school’s internal online directory RoloBoalt.

Christ, in a letter asking Napolitano to approve the removal of the name from the campus building, wrote that doing so “will help Berkeley recognize a troubled part of our history, while better supporting the diverse membership of today’s academic community.”

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