It is evident through history, Olaudah Equino’s narrative, and Robert Cruikshank’s image that slavery was beneficial to many. Cruikshank’s image is propaganda against abolitionist and their movement to end slavery. This image is mocking the movement in several different forms, such as having children signing the petition this being used to express how “idiotic” it is to abolish slavery. However what stood out to me the most was the depiction of “happy slaves” on an island in the background of the painting, while the abolitionist are seen showing “fake” images of the horrible treatment of slaves. This propaganda is meant to demonstrate the false claims abolitionist make of slavery. This immediately captured my attention because it is amazing to believe people believed they were helping these slaves. As we have discussed in class before there were many excuses Europeans used to justify their acts. Olaudah Equino being an free slave in London seemed to be caught in the middle. Despite describing the horrors of slavery in his narrative “It was very common in several of the islands, particularly in St. Kitt’s for the slaves to be branded with the initial letters of their master’s name; and a load of heavy iron hooks hung about their necks… I have seen a negro beaten till some of his bones were broken…( Equino 109)” this proving false the depiction of the “happy slave”. However, Equino owned slaves himself. “I went with the doctor on board a Guineaman, to purchase some slaves to carry with us, and cultivate a plantation and I chose them all my own coutrymen (Equino 189)” not only is he purchasing slaves but is emphasizing how he is doing a good of purchasing of his “own countrymen”, this touching on the “happy” lives slaves lived on the plantation as family. This bring into question how convincing the idea of a “happy slave” is if even Equino believed this to be true.
-Alondra Morales Aguilar