The inspiration for my work is taken from my archival research into the philosophical, pseudo-scientific, and religious foundations of racism. In this piece, I am exploring how the Age of Reason’s reliance on physical appearance as scientific fact justified the dehumanization of non-European groups to the position of chattel.
Delia was a slave who was photographed by Joseph Zealy in 1850, in South Carolina. The series of Zealy’s photographs was used to support naturalist Louis Agassiz’s premise that Africans were biologically inferior to Europeans. 162 years later, I revisit Agassiz’s premise in the hopes of exposing Delia’s humanity, nobility, and beauty. In exposing the humanity of Delia, I seek to open a discourse about how science, religion, and appearance obfuscate issues of identity and “otherness” in our world.