Joseph Garrison, March 20, 2019, USA Today
BOSTON — 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 African-Americans were inferior to white people.
Now, a woman who claims to be a direct descendant of that father and child – Tamara Lanier, the great-great-great granddaughter of Renty – is suing Harvard over the photos.