About this artwork
A man of African descent, kneeling and shackled in chains, poses the powerful question: "Am I not a Man and a Brother?" Employing a stark contrast of black against a white background, here the Wedgwood pottery used its famous jasperware technique to tackle an issue dear to its founders’ heart: the abolition of the slave trade. Josiah Wedgwood was part of a prominent circle of antislavery reformers and entrepreneurs, along with activist Thomas Clarkson and the physician and scientist Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles Darwin).
Decades before the American Civil War, this medallion was adopted as the seal for the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, founded in Britain in 1787. Also known as “The Seal of the Slave,” it was made in large quantities by Wedgwood and was both sold and distributed for free to promote the cause. Women wore it on bracelets and hair ornaments, and it was even incorporated into clay pipes. The medallion was much like today’s Project Red T-shirts by Gap, red ribbons promoting AIDS awareness, or political campaign buttons.
- Wedgwood Manufactory
- Anti-Slavery Medallion
- Stoneware (jasperware and black basalt), cut steel, and ivory
- Inscription: "AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER?"
- 5.2 × 4.1 × 0.64 cm (2 1/16 × 1 5/8 × 1/4 in.)
- Amelia Blanxius Memorial Collection, gift of Mrs. Emma B. Hodge and Mrs. Jene E. Bell