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Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University [35-5-10/53037]

Renty from Congo

Many more people of Bantu origin ended up in the Maryland/Virginia area than in the Georgia/Carolina region, but they comprised nearly a third of all migrants in both sectors. The predominance of these closely related Bantu-speaking peoples had an important influence on the religion and culture of the enslaved population in North America, as elsewhere.

In 1850, Harvard biologist Louis Agassiz commissioned portraits of enslaved Africans in South Carolina, to illustrate his theory that the human groups did not have a common origin. To try and show that the Africans were a different (and inferior) species, he had seven men and women born in Africa or of African-born parents photographed, front, back, and in profile. In some pictures, they are entirely naked. Their expressions tell a terrible story of wounded dignity.

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