Stop Harvard University from using property law to maintain ownership of slave images

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Harvard Coalition To Free Renty
Harvard Coalition To Free Renty signed this petition

Imagine your great grandparents were enslaved, exploited, forced to strip naked, photographed against their will, those photographs are publicly shared today...and there was nothing you could do about it. 

That is exactly what is happening to this family by my school...and we need to do better. 

Harvard University is in the possession of photographs from the 1850's, images of a Father and Daughter (Renty & Delia) which were commissioned by a biologist/zoologist who famously theorized African's originated from a different 'source' than Anglo's and were 'less than' or 'subhuman'. 

These images are now the center of a lawsuit against the University, because Harvard continues to display, publish and sell rights to them; profiting. 

Representatives of Harvard claim the present-day context in displaying them aims to highlight Africans’ humanity. However, the deep and true context for the slaves, for Renty and Delia, will never change. This historical, disturbing context is frozen within the faces of each frame, and respectfully deserve to be laid to rest in the hands of their decedents.

The family has requested these images be surrendered, and continue to respectfully request Harvard STOP using images of their ancestors for profit, however the President of Harvard refused to comply by saying, “the law is on our side.” 

Laws in this nation once supported Federal Slave Codes & Fugitive Slave Laws, Jim Crow. Our own Supreme Court ruled segregation legal (Plessy v. Ferguson).  This is not an issue of law, this is an issue of persistent institutional and cultural violence perpetuated by Harvard University aimed toward African slaves. 

As a devoted student and soon-to-be alumni, this petition is an effort to spread awareness, while respectfully requesting the surrender of these images, and their rights, to the named Plaintiff for final resting. 

President Bacow, it is not your place, nor is it the place of the University or affiliated institutions, to claim ownership under the law for Renty and Delia.  Let them go home, and begin to set a new standard for Harvard that all students, faculty and the community can respect.