In 1850, two enslaved Africans—a father and daughter—were brought to a studio in Columbia and daguerreotypes were taken of their images. The pictures were part of a study by Harvard University zoologist Louis Agassiz intended to prove that black people were inferior to white people. The pictures are now held by Harvard’s Peabody Museum and have been used in textbooks and conference materials. Yesterday, Tamara Lanier sued Harvard for ownership of the photos, The New York Times reports. Lanier’s genealogical investigation shows she is a descendent of the two slaves, Renty and Delia, she says. Her lawyers say the images are “spoils of theft” and charges that Harvard has been illegally profiting from them. Others worry that the unique daguerreotypes could degrade without the protection of a museum.
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