Editor’s Note: This endorsement is part of a special edition that Hyperallergic published on the ongoing legal case to return the photos of Renty and Delia Taylor to their descendants.
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We cannot be indifferent to the long-lasting effects of photography. The photographs at the center of Lanier v. Harvard are relentless in making Renty and Delia Taylor work and perform as slaves. The pain inflicted on them has not ceased. Photography has the capacity to propagate harm, and we have the moral obligation to interrupt its effects. Renty and Delia’s relatives perceive this indignity every day, and the sooner we take action to halt this pervasive effect the better.
Whereas pseudoscientific interests catalyzed the commission of the images of Renty and Delia, we can now undo those old forms of abusive power. By combining our academic knowledge, our engagement with images, and our most heartfelt convictions, we can repair past injustices. Once we know that we have this capacity, we cannot let a minute go by without taking action. This knowledge and this moral position must be inscribed in the proceedings of justice as we understand it today. We would not be morally complete if we bequeathed this task to future generations. Let’s do it now.