Faces Of Slavery

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Agassiz was probably satisfied as well; certainly his Columbia visit had reinforced his belief that fricans were a distinct species.

Although Agassiz never wavered in his belief, the theory of special creations was soon to be supplanted by the theory of evolution propounded by Charles Darwin in his Origin of Species (1859). Modern anthropologists, of course, are unanimous in their belief that mankind is a single species.

Agassiz’ theory was discredited by the mid-i86o’s, but the daguerreotypes survived; and it is ironic that these pictures, made to demonstrate the supposed inferiority of their subjects, instead conferred a kind of immortality on the men and women we know only as Renty and Delia, Jem and Jack. It was no consolation for the humiliation they endured both as slaves and as objects of scientific curiosity, but a rare gain for those who now encounter these people as memorably real survivors of a painful epoch.