The campaign to abolish slavery in Britain began in the 1780s, with the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade holding its first meeting on 22nd May 1787. Between the 1780s and 1860s abolitionists used various means to disseminate their anti-slavery message to British society, not only producing printed pamphlets and books, but also transferring prints and poems onto everyday objects such as textiles and ceramics. By placing anti-slavery imagery onto familiar objects such as jugs, plates and teawares, the abolition movement entered people’s homes and could reach those who were not able to read (the literacy rate in 1820 was 53%). Powerful and provocative yet often problematic images were used to confront the viewer with the plight of enslaved people, evoking sympathy and inviting ethical discussions on the subject of slavery. These images often depicted a kneeling enslaved African in chains, holding their hands out in supplication. The most famous ceramic object to use this motif was the jasperware medallion produced by Josiah Wedgwood and modelled by William Hackwood in 1787. Featuring the imploring inscription ‘Am I not a man and a brother?’, the medallion was reproduced in great numbers and would have been worn by abolitionists as a badge to show their support for the cause. Many American-based anti-slavery societies purchased these English-made ceramics to sell at their own anti-slavery fairs and meetings. Small cylindrical, slip cast vase with molded foot, transfer printed on one side with a scene of a kneeling enslaved person in chains with a palm tree in the distance, two polychrome floral sprays with rose buds surround the enslaved figure, and the other side printed with the phrase, “Remember/ them that are/ in Bonds.” The edges of the top rim and the lower rims are picks out in dark blue enamel. The phrase comes from Hebrews 13:3: Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.
antislavery movements; enslaved persons
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