In 1850, a Swiss-born Harvard University professor commissioned what are believed to be the earliest photos of American slaves.
The images, known as daguerreotypes and taken in a South Carolina studio, are crude and dehumanizing – and they were used to promote racist beliefs.
Among the photographed: an African man named Renty and his daughter, Delia. They were stripped naked and photographed from several angles. Former professor Louis Agassiz, a biologist, had the photos taken to support an erroneous theory called polygenism that he and others used to argue that African-Americans were inferior to white people.
Now, a woman who says she is a direct descendant of that father and child – Tamara Lanier, the great-great-great granddaughter of Renty – is suing Harvard over the photos.
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