Woman suing Harvard over slave photos represented by Westport lawyer
WESTPORT — A Connecticut woman is suing Harvard University for the “wrongful seizure, possession and monetization” of photos that depict two of her slave ancestors, according to a news release.
Tamara Lanier, of Norwich, filed a lawsuit against the Ivy League school on Wednesday in Massachusetts state court, claiming the university profited from licensing the pictures for years and ignored requests to return them to the family.
Lanier plans to discuss the case at a news conference at the Harvard Club in New York City at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, accompanied by her attorneys, civil rights litigator Ben Crump and attorney Josh Koskoff, of Westport.
Koskoff also represents families of victims of the Sandy Hook shooting in a lawsuit against gun manufacturer Remington.
“Tamara Lanier has accused Harvard University of the wrongful seizure, possession and monetization of photographic images of her great-great-great grandfather, an enslaved African man named Renty, and his daughter, Delia,” the release says. “The images, believed to be the earliest known photographs of American slaves, were commissioned in 1850 by a Harvard professor seeking to prove the theory, known as polygenism, that racial groups do not share a common origin and thus that Africans and African-Americans are inferior to whites.”
“Because Harvard has ignored repeated requests over several years to stop licensing the pictures for profit and instead return them to the family, Tamara Lanier, Renty’s great-great-granddaughter, filed a lawsuit against the university seeking reparations,” according to the release.
The suit additionally asks Harvard to acknowledge that it bears responsibility for the humiliation of Renty and Delia, and that Harvard “was complicit in perpetuating and justifying the institution of slavery.”
Associated Press contributed to this report.