Matthew S. Schwartz of NPR reports on a lawsuit against the Ol' Crimson brought by one Tamara Lanier. Per Lanier "Papa Renty" is the patriarch of her family. And in a lawsuit filed Wednesday, she says Harvard is using those photos without permission — and in so doing, profiting from photos taken by a racist professor determined to prove the inferiority of black people."
Lanier says that Harvard has no rightful claim to the images of Renty or his daughter, Delia, forced to strip naked and pose for a demeaning pseudoscientific study. Lanier argues that in refusing to acknowledge Lanier's claim to the photos, Harvard is "perpetuating the systematic subversion of black property rights that began during slavery and continued for a century thereafter."
"Slavery was abolished 156 years ago, but Renty and Delia remain enslaved in Cambridge, Massachusetts," the complaint states. "Their images, like their bodies before, remain subject to control and appropriation by the powerful, and their familial identities are denied to them."
A Harvard spokesperson said the university couldn't comment as it had not yet been served with the complaint, the Associated Press reported.
"That photograph is like a hostage photograph," the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates told The New York Times. "This is an enslaved black man with no choice being forced to participate in white supremacist propaganda — that's what that photograph was taken for."
While on a break from class I struck up a conversation with a woman. My classmates and I were standing outside of Sever Hall. I noted that, "Harvard was built on the labor of slaves."
The woman asked me, "How? What do you mean?"
Before you ask, "Was that woman...?"
Yes. Yes she was.
(To end this on a "posi" note: I did see LL Cool J while on break from class (in front of the Fogg Museum). He was receiving a W E DuBois medal from the Hutchins Center at Harvard. Happy to report that he is as handsome and charming as he was when I first developed a crush on him!)
(Hutchins Center for African and African American Research link: https://hutchinscenter.fas.harvard.edu/poi/glenn-h-hutchins?page=1)