Secret Court 100: Harvard's Queer Century—Living Legacies


Friday, May 22, 2020, 3:00pm to 4:30pm


Link will be emailed to registrants

You are cordially invited to join in virtual conversation about Harvard's LGBTQ+ past, present, and future –– on the occasion of a very difficult centennial.

In 1920, Harvard formed a “Secret Court” to investigate homosexual activity among its student body. Headed by Dean Chester Noyes Greenough within the administration of President Abbott Lawrence Lowell, the tribunal conducted a months-long witch hunt resulting in the expulsion or removal of eight students, one recent graduate, and an assistant professor. Only two of those students were ever readmitted to receive a Harvard degree, and two eventually died by suicide.

The history of the Court was not discovered until 2002 in a Crimson investigation, 82 years after the injustice occurred. At the time, then-President Larry Summers responded in a short statement claiming that the events were “part of a past that we have rightly left behind,” adding that “we are a better and more just community today because those attitudes [of persecution on the basis of sexual orientation] have changed as much as they have.”

This spring, we are launching a series of programs to mark the centennial of the “Secret Court,” to take stock of Harvard’s queer century since then, and to reflect on the past, present, and future of LGBTQ+ life across the University.

Our first event, “Living Histories,” will take place on Thursday, May 21, 6-7:30pm EDT, featuring prominent Harvard faculty and alumni. Our second event, “Living Legacies,” will take place on Friday, May 22, 3-4:30pm EDT, featuring current undergraduate and graduate student leaders.

Please register here for “Living Histories” (5/21 @ 6pm) and here for “Living Legacies” (5/22 @ 3pm). All registrants will receive a link to the online program the day before each event.