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Art History Illustrated: Who Owns Images of Enslaved Persons? The Afterlives of Antebellum Daguerreotypes

Thursday, October 26, 2023

5:30-7:00 PM

In 1850, Harvard Professor Louis Agassiz, working on the racist (and now discredited) theory of evolutionary polygenesis, commissioned photographer J.T. Zealy to capture images of enslaved Africans in the American South.  These are the oldest of a small number of disturbing, yet priceless, pictures to survive from the three decades when the existence of photography overlapped with the last years of slavery in the USA. Art historian Brenda Edgar will investigate the ongoing legal battles to determine the rightful owners of these likenesses, which have been widely reproduced in books, art, and other media: do they belong to the institutions that own them, or to the descendants of their subjects?

Join us for our “Art History Illustrated” talk series, held the third Thursday of every month at 5:30 p.m. This monthly illustrated talk series is presented by art historian Brenda Edgar, in collaboration with the Carnegie Center for Art and History.

Image: J.T. Zealy, Renty, Congo, on plantation of B.F. Taylor, Columbia, S.C., March 1850, Peabody Museum, Harvard University.

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