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Harvard May Be Liable to Descendant of Slaves in 1850 Photograph

June 23, 2022, 8:40 PM

Harvard must defend emotional distress claims for failing to respond to a woman who asserts that her enslaved ancestors were depicted in 19th century photographs taken by a Harvard professor, and asked to be notified when the images were used, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled Thursday.

The school had a duty to take reasonable care in responding to Tamara Lanier that arose “from its involvement in the horrific conduct by which the four daguerreotypes were created,” once she approached the school as a descendant, the court said.

The majority, however, found Lanier has no property right in the photographs. ...