Harvard's Secret Court
Harvard's Secret Court
The Savage 1920 Purge of Campus Homosexuals
Griffin, Paperback, 9780312322724, 294pp.
Publication Date: October 31, 2006
In 2002, a researcher for The Harvard Crimson came across a restricted archive labeled "Secret Court Files, 1920." The mystery he uncovered involved a tragic scandal in which Harvard University secretly put a dozen students on trial for homosexuality and then systematically and persistently tried to ruin their lives.
In May of 1920, Cyril Wilcox, a freshman suspended from Harvard, was found sprawled dead on his bed, his room filled with gas--a suicide. The note he left behind revealed his secret life as part of a circle of (cut "young") homosexual students.The resulting witch hunt and the lives it cost remains one of the most shameful episodes in the history of America's premiere university. Supported by legendary Harvard President Lawrence Lowell, Harvard conducted its investigation in secrecy. Several students committed suicide;others had their lives destroyed by an ongoing effort on the part of Harvard to destroy their reputations. Harvard's Secret Court is a deeply moving indictment of the human toll of intolerance and the horrors of injustice that can result when a powerful institution loses its balance.
"An excellent book . . . a riveting account of a sordid episode in Harvard's history. For those who would like to see gay Americans pushed back out of public view, William Wright has provided a chilling glimpse of the horrors that lurk in the closet."--Barbara Ehrenreich, bestselling author of Nickel and Dimed "Shocking . . . Only William Wright could have captured all the drama and irony of this long-buried story."--Alison Lurie, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Foreign Affairs "This is a tale of vindictiveness and hate perpetrated over the years--and it is a cautionary tale told with concision and convincing detail."--Edmund White, author of A Boy's Own Story "A first-rate writer absolutely in command of his material."--David Halberstam
"It takes an independent writer and free spirit to tell the story straight, and thank God Wright has done it."--Edward O. Wilson, author of Consilience "A revelation and a pleasure . . . It presents the mysteries of human genetics and behavior in a way that leaves the reader enlightened, conversant, and entertained. A most rewarding book."--Robert Stone, author of Outerbridge Reach