CNN An enslaved African man named Renty and his daughter Delia were stripped and forced to pose for images commissioned by a Swiss-born Harvard professor who espoused a theory that Africans and African-Americans were inferior to whites. Tamara Lanier says she is a direct descendent of the man in the iconic photos. Nearly years later, Renty and Delia "remain enslaved" by the Ivy League university, which is being accused of the "wrongful seizure, possession and expropriation" of the photographs, according to a Massachusetts lawsuit filed by Tamara Lanier, a direct descendant demanding that Harvard turn over the images, recognize her lineage and pay unspecified damages. In many ways, it's a lawsuit for all the descendants of slaves in America. The lawsuit reads like the outline for a historical novel, a stark portrait of "opportunism, greed, and profound moral abdication by one of the country's most revered educational institutions," the complaint said. It centers on what are believed to be the earliest known photographic images of slaves, which were commissioned in by Harvard professor Louis Agassiz, a controversial figure who supported polygenism -- the idea that humans evolved from multiple distinct ancestral types -- and lent "celebrity status and 'scientific' legitimacy to the poisonous myth of white racial superiority and championing the vital importance of separations of races," according to the suit.