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Medallion

  • Place of origin:

    Etruria (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1787 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Hackwood, William (modeller)
    Josiah Wedgwood and Sons (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    White Jasper with a black relief and mounted in gilt-metal

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Lady Charlotte Schreiber

  • Museum number:

    414:1304-1885

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 118; The Wolfson Gallery, case 3

Object Type
These medallions were made for distribution to advocates for the abolition of slavery. Both men and women used or wore them to publicise the campaign and signal their support for the abolitionist cause.

Wedgwood is popularly credited as the originator of the motto on the medallion: 'Am I not a man and a brother?'. He had extensive trading links with Liverpool, the foremost slave port of the day. However, there is evidence to suggest that the phrase was first employed in 1778 by Rev Dr Peter Peckard, Chancellor of Magdalene College, Cambridge, who used it as the title of an abolitionist pamphlet supplied to the National Legislator.

Trading
The medallions were not sold commercially, and were never listed in the Wedgwood catalogues. Instead, Wedgwood probably bore the cost of their production and distribution. Others of similar size sold at 3 guineas each (œ3 3s), which gives an indication of the considerable sums involved. They were probably distributed through the Society for the Abolition of Slavery. Certainly, Wedgwood is known to have sent consignments to both the American statesman Benjamin Franklin, who was then President of the Philadelphia Society for the Abolition of Slavery, and Thomas Clarkson, a leading abolitionist and author of A Summary View of the Slave Trade.

Physical description

Oval medallion of white jasper with a black relief of a chained black male slave in a half-kneeling posture facing right. Set in a gilt metal hoop. Inscribed at the edge with 'AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER?'.

Place of Origin

Etruria (made)

Date

ca. 1787 (made)

Artist/maker

Hackwood, William (modeller)
Josiah Wedgwood and Sons (maker)

Materials and Techniques

White Jasper with a black relief and mounted in gilt-metal

Marks and inscriptions

'AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER?'
Inscribed at the edge

Dimensions

Height: 3 cm, Width: 2.7 cm

Object history note

Made for the Society for the Abolition of Slavery. Known as the Emancipation Badge.

Descriptive line

Oval medallion of white jasper with a black relief of a chained black male slave in a half-kneeling posture facing right, modelled by William Hackwood, made by Josiah Wedgwood and Sons Ltd., Etruria, ca. 1787.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Dawson, A. Masterpieces of Wedgwood in the British Museum. 2nd ed. London : The British Museum Press, 1995.
Guyatt, Mary. The Wedgwood slave medallion: values in eighteenth-century design. Journal of Design History. 2000 13(2):93-105
Margolin, S. 'And Freedom to the Slave': Antislavery Ceramics 1787-1865. In R. Hunter, ed. Ceramics in America. Milwaukee : Chipstone Foundation, 2002, pp 81-109.
Woods, Marcus. Blind Memory: Visual representations of slavery in England and America, 1780-1865. Manchester & New York : Manchester University Press, 2000, 22 p.
Torrington, Arthur, Rita McLean, Victoria Osborne and Ian Grosvenor, eds., Equiano: Enslavement, Resistance and Abolition. Birmingham: Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, ca.2007. 93 p :ill. ISBN 0-7093-0257-5.

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Wedgwood was a keen supporter of the campaign against slavery. This design was taken from the seal of the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, and the medallions were given to the Society's members. They were set in women's jewellery and on the lids of men's snuff-boxes. [27/03/2003]
Text written about this object for 'Uncomfortable Truths / Traces of the Trade' gallery trails (Trail 4: 'Representing Slavery & Abolitionism'), 20 February - 31 December 2007. Helen Mears & Janet Browne.

'MEDALLION FOR THE SOCIETY FOR THE ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE / Abolitionists were aware of the importance of effective visual propaganda, and with the ceramics manufacturer Josiah Wedgwood as a supporter they benefited from the input of someone familiar with the marketplace.

Wedgwood was on the committee of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade (SEAST). He based this medal on the Society's seal. Produced to raise funds and support for the abolitionist cause, it shows a kneeling, enchained African beneath the inscription 'Am I not a man and a brother?'

The image quickly gained prominence and was used in numerous anti-slavery initiatives. Like other similar images, it relied on creating an emotional impact. By doing so, it presented the black African as a passive and depersonalised victim requiring the mercy and intervention of the white Briton. While such imagery helped bring about the end of slavery in Britain and her colonies, it also created a legacy of unequal power relations that would endure long after 1807.' [20/02/2007]

Materials

Jasper ware; Gilt metal

Techniques

Mounted

Subjects depicted

Slave; Slavery; Negro; Man

Categories

Ceramics; British Galleries; Slavery & Abolitionism; Jasperware

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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