The image of 15 black Tulane University medical students standing tall in front of the slave quarters of a Louisiana plantation has captured the attention of social media.
Russell Ledet, who came up with the idea to take the photo — one of a few taken that day by Abedoyin Johnson at the Whitney Plantation — wants it to capture the attention of children in classrooms worldwide.
The photo is well on its way. It’s been shared thousands of times across Instagram and Twitter since Ledet shared it with the caption, “We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams.”
“The reality of it is, this is a representation that we’re here,” Ledet, a 33-year-old second-year medical student at Tulane, told USA TODAY on Thursday. “We’re present. We’re unapologetically black and present. In white coats. You need to be able to look at that photo and take that in, accept it and be alright with it.”
‘Life-altering’ donation:UCLA medical school gets an extra $46 million from impresario David Geffen
Ledet said he got the the idea to visit the plantation with his classmates after first seeing the plantation over the summer with his daughter, who said it was “amazing” to see a black doctor in America. She added, “We’ve come a really long way,” Ledet said.
Sydney Labat, a fellow second-year medical student who also shared photos from the day, said the point was to show younger generations that what she and her classmates are doing is possible for them, too.
“This is your future in every way, shape and form,” Labat said. “You can do this. Hopefully, going through their heads is something like, ‘These people look like me.’ I think we know it’s not a secret that there aren’t, in classrooms, very many pictures of black people doing substantial things, besides being an athlete.
“Just showing them that you can be academically excellent. You can choose to enter the path of medicine with your academic excellence. You can be smart, you can be beautiful and you can be black all at the same time.”
Dr. Lee Hamm, Tulane University School of Medicine dean and senior vice president, called the pictures “powerful.”
“Our students are our greatest strength and we applaud their sense of purpose, community and service,” Hamm said in a statement to USA TODAY.
“Powerful” is what the students were aiming for, Labat said.
Grappling with the history of slavery:The blueprint for dealing with it? Some say Brown University
“It was moving to us, having the experience,” she said. “It’s moving to people around the world. We have been literally contacted by people internationally, around the globe. People from China have contacted Russell. My DMs are flooded by people from Brazil. Powerful and moving and emotional — those are all really accurate words for it.”
Ledet and Labat said they’re hoping to get 100,000 copies of the photo printed, framed and put up in classrooms. Ledet said he wants to get the people in the photo to sign the individual copies and leave messages.
The students are still trying to figure out how to do that, but they’re determined to get it done, Ledet said.
“Hundreds of teachers have already reached out to us,” Ledet said. “They want one of those framed photos. We need some sponsors to get it done.”