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Title:plate: Freedom First of August 1838
Date Made:circa 1838
Type:Food Service
Materials:ceramic: lead-glazed pearlware transfer printed in underglaze red enamel
Place Made:Great Britain: England; Staffordshire (probably)
Measurements:Overall: 1 in x 10 1/2 in; 2.5 cm x 26.7 cm
Accession Number:  HD 2020.28
Credit Line:Museum Collections Fund
Museum Collection:  Historic Deerfield

Circular plate, jiggered, transfer printed in underglaze red enamel, unmarked. The rim of the plate is printed with the inscription "FREEDOM FIRST OF AUGUST/1838" and a small repeating daisy motif. This pattern shows a Black family celebrating beside their small house, under a large pennant proclaiming "Liberty", No published reference for this pattern has been found. The plate commemorates the end of slavery in the British Empire. While the Slave Trade Act of 1807 outlawed the slave trade, slavery itself still continued throughout the Empire despite the growing abolitionist movement. During the Christmas holidays in 1831 a slave revolt in Jamaica, known as the Baptist War, contributed greatly to the drive toward emancipation. The Slave Abolition Act of 1833 set all enslaved people under the age of six free; any enslaved person over that age had to serve as an "apprentice" for a few more years. The apprenticeships ended August 1, 1838. The Abolition Act did not apply to any areas under the East India Company's jurisdiction, meaning Ceylon, parts of India, and St. Helena in the Atlantic, but emancipation also came to those areas in the early 1840s. Even after emancipation, British West Indian plantation owners held on to control of the possessions, movements, and labor of Black bodies. The gardens and provision grounds used by Black laborers to supplement their meals during slavery were reclaimed by planters. Even the homes they had occupied for decades were legally never theirs to own and planters refused to sell even small plots of land. At best, Blacks could rent property but there was no guarantee that the planter would not renege and cast them off his land. If already landowners, Black farmers paid higher taxes for their small acreage than their white counterparts. If possible, people squatted on free or unused land but anyone without a job was considered a vagrant and severely punished.

slavery; enslaved persons; antislavery movements

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