Justice for Tamara Linear

Justice for Tamara Linear

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Ashlyn Korpak started this petition to The White House and

All her life, Tamara Lanier heard stories about an enslaved ancestor named Renty. A few years ago, the Norwich resident started researching her family history and has since unearthed genealogical evidence she believes proves she is a descendant of Renty, an African-born slave who labored on a South Carolina plantation. Now, the retired state chief probation officer is on a mission to reclaim a piece of her legacy. She’s suing Harvard University for ownership of photos taken in 1850 of Renty and his daughter Delia. The daguerreotype images were commissioned by Louis Agassiz, a Swiss-born Harvard professor and pioneering zoologist. They were part of Agassiz’s efforts to support the racist theory of polygenesis, which argued that black and white people descended from different origins. 

In her legal challenge, Lanier claims that because her enslaved ancestors were considered property and could not consent to having their photos taken, Harvard University has no claim of ownership of the images. As a descendant, she has a valid claim to own the photos, Lanier says. Harvard, which says it has not profited from the images, filed a motion to dismiss Lanier’s lawsuit. If the case proceeds, oral arguments could begin later this year.

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