If you’ve ever visited Harvard, you might have come across a certain image of an African man and a young girl. The photos were taken in 1850 to depict the superiority of the Whites to Africans.
Well, Harvard is getting hit with a lawsuit by the great-great-great-granddaughter of the man identified as Renty. The pictures are taken by renowned Harvard zoologist Louis Agassiz.
The woman, Lanier has found unusual allies in her lawsuit– the descendants of Louis Agassiz. They are renouncing their great-great-great-grandfathers study, saying its time to correct history.
Louis Agassiz was an advocate for polygenism–the theory that according to the lawsuit was used to justify the enslavement of black people and later, their segregation.
The photograph is stored in a museum on campus as artifacts. The photos are some of the earliest known photos of slaves and are referred to as daguerreotypes.
42 descendants of Louis Agassiz who are all in support of the lawsuit are demanding for the return of the photos.
“Do we think Renty and Delia consented to be part of a project to justify their own enslavement? Of course not,” said Suzannah Moore a descendent of Agassiz at a press conference on the Harvard campus.
Lanier in a statement said, “It’s surreal. When you think about the totality of the story and the fact we have linear descendants of Renty and the linear descendants of Louis Agassiz standing in solidarity.”
Lanier wants the photographs and wants Harvard to pay for unspecified damages. The lawsuit claims that Harvard has continued to profit off of the photos of Renty and Delia. For example; an image of Renty is used on the cover of a book called “From Site to Sight: Anthropology, Photography and the Power of Imagery,” which is sold for $40.
Harvard spokeswoman, Racheal Dane in an email said that while the university could not comment on the ongoing lawsuit. She says it “has and will continue to come to terms with and address its historic connection to slavery.”