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Vox Sentences: Should Harvard profit from photos of slavery?

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Harvard is accused of profiting from images of enslaved people; an explosion at a chemical plant in China turns deadly.

Will a lawsuit force Harvard to reckon with its past?

Kevin Hagen/Getty Images
  • Tamara Lanier, a Connecticut woman descended from enslaved people, sued Harvard University on Wednesday for profiting off images of her ancestors. The Ivy League school refused to return the pictures to the subjects’ descendants — and did not give a response to the suit. [Washington Post / Susan Svrluga]
  • The picture of Lanier’s great-great-great-grandfather, Renty, is featured on the cover of a Harvard publication that costs $40. Lanier found the image — which she says Harvard never had the permission to use — online. Another image features Renty’s daughter, Delia. [NPR / Matthew S. Schwartz]
  • Harvard also makes money by charging a high licensing fee to anyone who wants to use the image. Lanier’s suit asks for full rights to the images and damages from the university. [Politico / Benjamin Wermund]
  • Harvard professor Louis Agassiz coerced the father and daughter to strip and pose half-naked, according to the suit. Agassiz reportedly viewed enslaved people as “specimens,” not people, an attitude that further contributed to the suit’s argument that descendants of enslaved people still struggle to claim personal property and their indelible rights. [NYT / Anemona Hartocollis]
  • The suit is part of a larger conversation about reparations to descendants to enslaved people, which is a huge issue for 2020 candidates to address. For many descendants, it’s not about money; it’s about getting long-due recognition of how immoral and persistent the legacy of slavery is in America. [WBUR / Meghna Chakrabarti]

An explosion at a Chinese chemical plant

  • Six people died and more than 30 were injured after a powerful explosion in eastern China on Thursday. The blast happened at around 3 pm local time in a chemical plant in Jiangsu province that mainly produces pesticides. The China Earthquake Administration reported that the explosion was so powerful, it apparently caused a magnitude 2.2 earthquake. [NYT / Austin Ramzy and Keith Bradsher]
  • Eyewitnesses reported that the windows of nearby buildings were shattered, causing injuries to people and damages to cars around the area. Some buildings were also knocked down, trapping people inside. [ABP News]
  • A notice by the Yangcheng Ecology and Environment Bureau said that an air quality monitoring team was sent out to check for any contamination of the air or water around the site. [South China Morning Post / William Zheng and Echo Xie]
  • This explosion has raised concerns about safety standards in China and the potential for deadly industrial accidents. A 2015 explosion at a container storage facility in Tianjin killed at least 165 people. [Al Jazeera]


  • A Florida man pleaded guilty to sending 16 explosive devices to perceived Trump foes in 2018, including former President Barack Obama, CNN, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. [Washington Post / Mark Berman and Edith Honan]
  • Boeing charged extra for safety features that were missing from both of the planes that crashed in Indonesia and Ethiopia. The company charges extra for optional aesthetic upgrades to standard planes as well as safety additions — costs that cheaper airlines typically forgo. [NYT / Hiroko Tabuchi and David Gelles]
  • The Federal Reserve suggested on Thursday that it will likely not increase interest rates this year. The move is a reversal of the Fed’s previous position and reveals the bank is not optimistic about the economy’s future — a drastic contrast from the White House’s projections for high growth. [Washington Post / Heather Long]
  • President Trump recognized Israel’s control of the Golan Heights on Thursday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to visit the White House in just a few days. Historically, nations have not recognized Israeli control of the territory, which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War. “It is time,” Trump tweeted. [The Hill / Jordan Fabian]
  • Leaders of EU member countries gathered in Brussels for the European Council Summit and discussed delaying the Brexit deadline, originally scheduled for March 29, until May. [Reuters / Gavin O’Toole]


“Ankapark ... isn’t just a symbol of pride for Ankara, but all of Turkey.” [President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on the opening of a new theme park in Ankara on Wednesday]

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