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The powerful anti-slavery painting that spawned the first political campaign logo

a painting depicting a shackled African man with hands clasped and head looking heavenward

Am Not I A Man and a Brother. Painting shown pre-conservation work. Courtesy National Museum Liverpool

The International Slavery Museum in Liverpool has been awarded a £50,000 grant to acquire a painting which depicts the “powerful and resonant iconography of abolition.”

‘Am Not I A Man and a Brother’ dates to around 1800 and features a dominant motif detailing the agonizing and insufferable treatment of slaves on a Caribbean sugar plantation during the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Based on a design commissioned by the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade on 5 July 5 1787, the painting is considered to be one of the first instances of a logo designed for a political cause. It was famously used by the potter Josiah Wedgwood for his persuasive anti-slavery ceramic medallions and went on to become the dominant image of abolition campaigning in the 18th and 19th centuries.

It is only the second known painting known to be in existence featuring the powerful motif – the only other being ‘The Kneeling Slave’ at the Wilberforce House Museum in Hull.

Stephen Carl-Lokko, Curator of the International Slavery Museum said the the acquisition represented “the first painting ever to be acquired by National Museums Liverpool to depict the powerful and resonant iconography of abolition”.

“We are very pleased to add it to our collection,” he added, “resistance is a key part of the history we bring to life in the International Slavery Museum and abolition is a very important part of this wider narrative.

“The painting is a remarkable surviving product of the early phase of the British movement to abolish the Transatlantic Slave Trade during the 18th and 19th century.”

The £50,000 used to acquire ‘Am Not I A Man and a Brother’, comes via grants from the Art Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures programme which funds the Museum’s Transatlantic and Contemporary Slavery Collecting Project. Previous acquisitions include a copper engraving by the famous British caricaturist James Gillray and the first example of an account by a female anti-slavery campaigner.

It joins several iconic paintings in the collection at National Museums Liverpool including The Hunted Slaves by Richard Ansell, The Black Boy by William Windus and the 1768 portrait of Liverpool slave trader, politician and merchant Richard Gildart by Joseph Wright.

a photo of two men looking at a painting of an African slave

Conservator David Crombie & Curator Stephen Carl-Lokko discuss the painting pre-conservation. Courtesy National Museum Liverpool

The collection also extends to hundreds of personal items – among them a porcelain sugar bowl from 1820-30 which holds the inscription: ‘East India Sugar. The produce of Free Labour’ and a 1793 edition of the famous autobiography of renowned anti-slavery campaigner and former slave Olaudah Equiano.

Following restoration work, the painting will go on display in late 2018 to raise awareness of the historical importance of the abolition movement while simultaneously moving the hearts and stirring the minds of 21st century audiences.

For more information on the ‘Collecting Cultures’ collection visit The International Slavery Museum’s website.

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International Slavery Museum

Liverpool, Merseyside

The International Slavery Museum highlights the international importance of slavery, both in a historic and contemporary context. Working in partnership with other museums with a focus on freedom and enslavement, the museum provides opportunities for greater awareness and understanding of the legacy of slavery today. It is located in Liverpool's…

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