22 March 2019 - Descendant of slave sues Harvard for profiting from photos of ancestor
Harvard sued by 'descendant of slave for profiting from photos'
The pictures, commissioned in 1850 by a professor seeking to prove that blacks were an inferior species, is believed to among the first photos of US slaves.
Tamara Lanier's lawsuit says the school is "perpetuating the systematic subversion of black property rights".
It comes as several US universities grapple with their racist histories.
Harvard spokesman Jonathan Swain told the Associated Press the university "has not yet been served, and with that is in no position to comment on this complaint".
Who is Renty? The story of the slave whose photos have triggered a lawsuit against Harvard
Joey Garrison (USA TODAY, 22/03/2019)
Tamara Lanier looked at the photo for the first time, finally putting a face to the man she knew as "Papa Renty."
For years, she heard the stories that her late mother told about their slave ancestor. Lanier promised she would one day write them down and create a family tree.
And here he was – gray-haired and bare-chested, staring defiantly straight ahead in a photo known as a daguerreotype.
"It was almost like we made eye contact," Lanier said. "It was an immediate feeling of kinship."
Harvard profited from slave photos that belong to descendants, lawsuit says
Associated Press in Boston (The Guardian, 20/03/2019)
Harvard University “shamelessly” turned a profit from photos of two 19th-century slaves while ignoring requests to turn the photos over to the slaves’ descendants, a lawsuit alleges.
Tamara Lanier, of Norwich, Connecticut, is suing the Ivy League school for “wrongful seizure, possession and expropriation” of images she said depict two of her ancestors. Her suit, filed in Massachusetts state court, demands Harvard immediately turn over the photos, acknowledge her ancestry and pay an unspecified sum in damages.
“These photographs make it clear that Harvard benefited from slavery then and continues to benefit now,” said the civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, one of Lanier’s lawyers. “By my calculation, Renty is 169 years a slave. When will Harvard finally set him free?”
Reparations for slavery necessary, and long overdue
Joyce Ferriabough Bolling (Boston Herald, 22/03/2019)
I am a die-hard fan of “Finding Your Roots,” the Emmy and Peabody award winning PBS show by my friend and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates. For most of the African-American celebrities featured on the show, unless their ancestors were born “free” or they had some white lineage on one side of the family tree, the heritage trail abruptly ends. Ship manifests and census tracts often did not count slaves, who were not seen as human beings but as little more than chattel and property.
I am always elated, along with the guest celebrity, when a slave ancestor defies expectations by overcoming obstacles — like being the first to own land or a business or helping to build whole communities that prospered.
I applaud Tamara Lanier for her effort to reclaim her family’s dignity by suing Harvard University for using pictures of her slave ancestors in studies conducted under their auspices to prove blacks were inferior to whites and profiting from their use. I am sure the Lanier family’s victory will be part redemption, part personal reparation.