It’s been a busy couple of days for Tamara Lanier, who took action which has been years in the making.
“Renty is my great, great, great grandfather,” explained Lanier.
We first talked to the Norwich woman about Renty back in 2014 as she tried to get Harvard to give her the daguerreotypes, a type of early photograph, she says were taken of Renty and his daughter, Delia, in 1850 when they were slaves in South Carolina.
“I have US Census information that connects me to that slave,” explained Lanier back in February 2014.
At the time, Harvard said she didn’t have the evidence to show the man in the pictures taken by Swiss scientist Louis Agassiz was her relative, Renty. This week, she filed a lawsuit against Harvard University.
“I’m excited about this case because all of that will be exposed,” said Lanier who wants people to know why Agassiz took the pictures. “Yes, and Harvard’s complicity in slavery as well.”
She said the pictures were taken to prove black people’s biological inferiority and to justify slavery.
The lawsuit said, “At Agassiz’s behest, Renty and Delia were stripped naked and forced to pose for the daguerreotypes without consent, dignity, or compensation.”
The suit made many claims about Agassiz. It went on to say “The brain of a negro,” Agassiz announced to the men gathered in the Charleston Literary Club, “is that of the imperfect brain of a 7 month’s infant in the womb of a White.”
“Renty had access to the Noah Webster speller and he was a slave who taught himself to read and would teach others,” said Lanier.
She said Harvard has profited from the images.
“I want them in the public domain where everyone can have access to it,” said Lanier. “Where the true stories can be told.”
News 8 contacted Harvard to get a response to this lawsuit. We are waiting to hear back.