Fine art, Prints, drawings and watercolours, Michael Graham-Stewart collection, Special collections

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'Slave on Deck'

Fine art

Object details:

Object ID ZBA2660
Description In this image an enslaved African in chains stands on the deck of a ship holding a dagger in his hand as if about to kill himself. Although initialled on the back and dated 1801, the image first appeared as an engraving in the 1793 edition of Thomas Day’s anti-slavery poem ‘The Dying Negro’ (1773). This is a strikingly unusual representation of an African for this period. In many depictions during the abolitionist era, Africans were shown as kneeling, pleading or praying. Alternatively, they were caricatured in often grotesque ways. Here, however, the African is portrayed in a defiant pose, presumably contemplating suicide rather than captivity. The unconcern of the crew behind him, the other cargo, inkpot and bill of lading (perhaps) all suggest his status as another ‘trade’ commodity. Moreover, the broad arrow on the crate, lower left, and the guns suggest the vessel has some British government connection.
Date made 1793

Artist/Maker Cooke, George
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Michael Graham-Stewart Slavery Collection. Acquired with the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund
Materials pen and wash
Measurements Sheet: 158 mm x 96 mm; Image: 158 mm x 96 mm
  • 'Slave on Deck' (ZBA2660)
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