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Woman Suing Harvard For Profiting Off of Ancestor's Slave Photos Taken by Known Racist

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You mean to tell me that what some people perceive as a leftist indoctrination center might still be profiting off of slavery? Come on! That’s too almost too believable to be believed — or something like that.

A Connecticut woman has filed a lawsuit against Harvard University, the oldest college in the U.S. (1636), claiming that the institution continues to use images of slaves that “depict two of her ancestors.”

According to the Associated Press (AP):

Tamara Lanier, of Norwich, Connecticut, is suing the Ivy League school for “wrongful seizure, possession and expropriation” of images she says depict two of her ancestors. Her suit, filed in Massachusetts state court, demands that Harvard immediately turn over the photos, acknowledge her ancestry and pay an unspecified sum in damages[…]

At the center of the case is a series of 1850 daguerreotypes, an early type of photo, taken of two South Carolina slaves identified as Renty and his daughter, Delia. Both were posed shirtless and photographed from several angles. The images are believed to be the earliest known photos of American slaves.

They were commissioned by Harvard biologist Louis Agassiz, whose theories on racial difference were used to support slavery in the U.S. The lawsuit says Agassiz came across Renty and Delia while touring plantations in search of racially “pure” slaves born in Africa.

While the lawsuit itself is up for debate, the existence of Agassiz as a Harvard professor should raise a few eyebrows.

According to the Encyclopaedia Brittanica:

Agassiz was heavily influenced by research into human cranial capacity conducted by American anthropologist Samuel George Morton, who possessed an extensive collection of skulls from people of many races. Using measurements taken from many of the skulls’ brain pans, Morton had developed an intellectual hierarchy that placed Caucasians (or whites, who had the largest cranial capacity in Morton’s collection, and thus were presumed to possess the greatest intelligence) at the top and placed Ethiopians (or blacks, who possessed the lowest cranial capacity in Morton’s collection) on the bottom. Agassiz agreed, as he was also affected by his own feelings of pity arising from his initial experiences with African Americans in Philadelphia during his 1846 tour. There he observed the physical traits and behaviour of a small group of African American hotel servants and concluded that they made up a “degraded and degenerate race.”

Agassiz was also an opponent of miscegenation. At a lecture at the Charleston Literary Club in South Carolina in 1847, Agassiz announced that blacks constituted a separate species. In a letter to American abolitionist Samuel Gridley Howe in 1863, Agassiz stated that sexual relations between blacks and whites were “immoral” and “destructive to the social equality.” Coming from a naturalist of Agassiz’s eminence, such views emboldened the resolve of many pro-slavery white Americans, especially in the South.

Oh, the same year that Agassiz said that “blacks constituted a separate species” was the same year he became a professor of zoology at Harvard University. Not only was Agassiz a questionable choice for a professor at what used to be perceived as a prestigious school, but to this day, Harvard operates a theater that was named in Agassiz's honor.

The lawsuit brings up the question of Harvard’s complicity in half of America’s previous attitude towards slavery:

The suit attacks Harvard for its “exploitation” of Renty’s image at a 2017 conference and in other uses. It says Harvard has capitalized on the photos by demanding a “hefty” licensing fee to reproduce the images. It also draws attention to a book Harvard sells for $40 with Renty’s portrait on the cover. The book, called “From Site to Sight: Anthropology, Photography, and the Power of Imagery,” explores the use of photography in anthropology.

Among other demands, the suit asks Harvard to acknowledge that it bears responsibility for the humiliation of Renty and Delia and that Harvard “was complicit in perpetuating and justifying the institution of slavery.”

Something like this really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone considering the left can claim the first leader of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest, was one of them. And, they’re also the people who voted against granting slaves U.S. citizenship and black people the right to vote.

Just par for the course.

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