Abolitionist Political Art

Jessica Medina
Janet Carrera
Vanessa Quiroz

An Historic Struggle Towards Freedom

An important figure, in the British Abolitionist movement was William Blake. He could be considered the leader of the abolitionist movement in Britain. His art was of importance to the American Abolitionist movement because it clearly depicted the suffering which slaves were put through by their masters. A perfect example of this type of art is the British official anti-slavery medallion, which accompanied by a chained slave, states "Am I Not A Man And A Brother?" This piece specifically demonstrates the desire by African-Americans to be considered humans, not mere possessions. Thus, the statement reintegrates, that just like their white masters, blacks were men and brothers to their fellow kind and wanted to be treated as such. Similar images depict the same ideas as those in the medallion. In accordance to its times and the ideas reflective of such, the medallion and its female counterpart had much in common with other pieces both by white and black abolitionists. They conveyed the same message of anti-slavery sentiment and a pacific struggle towards freedom and equality.

Blake's Flagellation of a Female Samboe Slave

In William Blake's "Flagellation of a Female Samboe Slave," (1796) an African slave is being lynched by her white masters. With her hands tied above her head from a tree branch, the woman is only clothed by rags which lazily hang from her lower body, Therefore, her upper body is bare and less resistant to the whips, The men who are whipping her are relatively smaller to the woman, Blake's piece is very well put together, The landscape is minimal and not detailed, but this has a greater purpose behind it, Due to the message which Blake tries to convey, few art elements and design principles are applicable.  The woman is placed as the point of focus for solely that reason, The men are pictured considerably smaller to show their close-minded and "small" characters, The fact that she is a woman plays a crucial role in the effect of the artwork. It demonstrates that not only men were victims, but women were also vulnerable to the harsh treatment by their masters. This is to ignite furious feelings not only in abolitionists, but also among female and male feminists, Blake's art is considered expressive, Thus, his art is of great value, It sparks thought about the morality of slavery and it touches one's heart arousing sympathy towards those who suffered,


Pre-Civil War Abolitionist Movement

African-Americans, who suffered most from the subjugation of their race, were very much involved in the movement towards freedom. Even before the American Revolution, slaves brought actions against their owners for their freedom which they sought as their undeniable right. Many petitions were sent to the federal government asking to outlaw the slave trade and to embark upon a system of general emancipation, but these went unheard, In the nineteenth century, African-Americans organized several antislavery societies. Black abolitionists had a special year in 1829, David Walker's "Appeal" was a blast against slavery, and the protest by George Moses Horton from North Carolina was cried out in his "Hope of Liberty." When the period of armed abolitionism began, African-Americans were ready to join whites in fighting slavery. William Lloyd Garrison's leadership and "Liberator" demonstrated the active membership blacks were taking in the movement because out of 450 subscriptions, 400 were for African-Americans. Negroes devoted their time, energy, and money to local and regional antislavery organizations. White abolitionists took great pride in speaking against the popular belief that blacks were not able to learn to write, read, or make decisions, Black abolitionists spoke and wrote about the emancipation of slaves, Most of African-Americans papers written before the Civil War were those which endorsed emancipation. An outstanding journalist of the time was Samuel Cornish, who with the help of John Russwurm had established the first Negro newspaper, "Freedom's Journal" in 1927. Along with contributing and active Negro abolitionists such as Sojourner Truth, Charles Gardner, Henry Garnet, Benjamin Banneker, and Garrison, Frederick Douglass was one of the most prominent of his time, A fugitive slave, he was first introduced to the movement when, in 1841, he attended an antislavery convention in Nantucket. Massachusetts, After his oratory there he was employed by several societies and soon became one of the best-known orators in the United States. He lectured in the North, East, and in England. In 1847, he started the North Star, an incident that led to his break with Garrison, previously one of his chief sponsors. Douglass was active in Negro conventions, the Underground Railroad, and many other efforts to improve the condition of his race. He was endowed with the physical attributes of an orator, Few antislavery leaders did so much to carry the case of the to the people of the United States and Europe in the generation before the Civil War.


Langston Hughes, Milton Meltzer, and C, Eric Lincoln, A Pictoral History of Black Americans. New York, NY: Crown Publishers, Inc. pp. 90-91, 104, 14-115

Wallace, Mike, 1838 Anti-Slavery Token.(Online) http://localsonly.wiImington.net/mwallace/htm/pages/slavery.htm Accessed : 2-1 1 -98

Art of the Era, http://miavxl.muchio,edu/aronownl/ArtHom.htm

Franklin, John Hope and Moss Alfred A, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, pp. 167-169


WB01343_.gif (599 bytes)African-Americans and photography










aminot_icon.gif (2671 bytes)