Not Pro Slavery: But Anti Clueless White Abolitionist

*https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2005/aug/31/race.bookextractsPicsArt_03-17-09.17.08In the introduction to, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, there is information about “freetown” which was a colony established in Africa for ex slaves. The introduction states, “…abolitionists in 1786 formed the Committee  for Relief of the Black Poor, which planned to send indigent blacks, most of them refugees and former slaves from the United States, to Sierra Leone on the coast of Africa,” (18). While the (mostly) white abolitionists meant well, Equiano didn’t think that sending the ex slaves away was a good idea. Africa is a large country, the poeple were from Africa but not Sierra Leone.  There were a lot of problems with this idea and between not enough supplies, disease and hardship many people died.

The image above is a small piece of the artwork we can analyze. This image is a spoof of a playbill implying that Seirra Leone was a farce and I think that the artist is referring to this failed colony. The abolishonists meant well, but the problem was that they were still thinking abiut ex slaves as seperate, as almost people but not quite. Equanio was made an official of this colony even though he has some misgivings. Equanio was made commissary to this expedition, even though he did not think it was the right course the introduction states, “Despite Equiano’s objections, this idea of “colonization” appealed to many white abolitionist,  both in Britain and in the United States, who could not imagine black men and women could be incorporated into British or American society,” (18). So, this art piece particularly the section above is not nessesarily for or against slavery but strongly against misguided white abolishonists who meant well, but we’re still seeing the ex slaves as property… as people unable to fit into society. This particular part of the painting is poking fun of the idea that abolishonists thought they could just send them back to Africa, as if this was the perfect solution. While one could say the painting is pro slavery (because it is anti abolishonists) I think that it is not, instead it is making a point. While white religious abolishonists might mean well, they still didn’t see freed slaves as equal and that was and is still an issue. The abolishonists needed to see the freed slaves as equals before anything could really be done to help them and I think that is what the artist was trying to say.

*For more information about this colony there is a great article from The Guardian the link is at the top.

Katie Oswald

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15 thoughts on “Not Pro Slavery: But Anti Clueless White Abolitionist

  1. Pingback: In-class student blog comments | English Literature of the Long Eighteenth Century (1660-1837) Gone Global

  2. I think the most original idea presented here is your analysis of the Back-to-Africa movement, particularly the bit about how not every African slave was from the Leone, where they were sent. Slavery definitely changed the way that Africans interacted with the world, and their mode of living out of Africa in no way equipped them to live in it. This conflict you note would carry on in history to become an issue in American slavery, and still has deep repercussions for Black Americans and Black Britains today. To improve, you could do a little more analysis on the piece of cartoon you highlighted, i.e: what does the word “farce” mean or imply? What are the implications of where it is posted? But overall, great post.

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  3. It is interesting to see that certain abolitionists held slavery as such an inexcusable aspect of society, and yet some seemed to ignore the ideal of complete and pure equality, rather seemed to aim for a removal of the peoples from the culture. In a sense, one can interpret this as not just “good intentions”, rather dismissal of a race. I don’t feel like the argument presented here is particularly that of real equality, the abolitionists here might be more concerned with the act of slavery itself than the rights of the people once captive within it.

    I feel like you could take a stronger stance with this, and it can push further into some really questionable things about the abolitionists; furthermore, how they could have been improved even if they were fighting for human rights. Sometimes leaning in the right direction isn’t enough.

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  4. I really enjoyed reading this blog. I believe you have many great points about Equiano’s thought process in the context of the image. One thing that can be improved is the introduction. It is a solid introduction, but I think there is slightly too much history than your opinion in it. I also enjoyed reading your opinion on how the image is “misguided” for some people.

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  5. The recognition of the abolitionist’s agenda as both a useful thing to abolish slavery but also as an awareness that slaves would still be considered property is one of the most insightful things about your post. It’s clear that you knew that there could be no clear decision on what this particular image was fighting for or against. However, while you mention that the image is clearly Anti-Abolitionist (and it very well is), how could you argue that is pro-Abolitionist instead? Most political cartoons often have critiques of both parties when analyzing them, and I think it would be a good point to bring up about this image.

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  6. I think the most original idea is when you state that the political cartoon is poking fun at the failure of the abolitionists. I think this blog could be better if you acknowledge the little details that are there to make readers take a closer look at the cartoon. For example the note in the back pocket of one of the Quakers (I presume) and saying how it fits in with your idea or how it can’t be used for a anti-abolitionist perspective.

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  7. I didn’t consider the whole “back to africa” approach, but I think it makes sense here, considering the confusing idea of nationality at this point. I think this could further be improved if you expanded on the idea of a conflicted nationality or race.

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  8. I like the way you chose not to categorize the artwork as simply anti or pro slavery. It was a common thought going through my head as well. Instead discussing how the art work shows how misinformed many people probably were at that is something I find very interesting. I feel you could add on more to this by commenting on the portion of the image where there appear to be children signing off on various papers.

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  9. Needing to see the slaves as equal is absolutely critical. I am under disbelief as well that the solution seemed so simple as that of setting a mistreated lion from the zoo back into the wild. The entity is not acclimated to the environment and faces a serious disadvantage due to its unfamiliar environment. You could have emphasized the point with referencing John Annis, the friend of Equiano that was sent back to the West Indies and tortured to death. It was not in the best interest to send them back, and as a result, Annis died. Great emphasis on the misguidedness of the white abolitionists.

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  10. Hi Katie,

    I love that you further discussed this topic, which we did not have time to fully discuss at the end of our discussion section on Wednesday. I think that the most important statement in your argument is, “The abolishonists needed to see the freed slaves as equals before anything could really be done to help them and I think that is what the artist was trying to say.” However, it was disappointing to me that it came as your closing line. In terms of what could make this blog better, I feel as though your blog would have had a stronger focus had you led with this line (or one similar to it) and then worked to use a close reading of the image to support your argument. I thought it was excellent that you used quotes from the book to back your claim (since Port Seirra Leone is certainly specifically mentioned, despite popular opinion). I also commend you for going above and beyond by adding an addition link to a resource outside of our class so that way students who wanted to know more about this topic could be directed to further research. This is a great example on how to take something introduced in class and then expand upon it further, tying it in to outside research. Just a small note, I would refrain from using ellipses (…) as much as possible. I saw you did it in the sentence, “So, this art piece particularly the section above is not nessesarily for or against slavery but strongly against misguided white abolishonists who meant well, but we’re still seeing the ex slaves as property… as people unable to fit into society.” I’m not sure why you chose to put it here, but to me it communicates a pause for reflection and then clarification of a concept. Though this sort of pausing is common in speech, it weakens an argument to do so in writing. I think you could have easily just bridged the two examples by saying, “seeing the ex slaves as property [or at the very least] as people unable to fit into society.” (Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but I do not believe you need to use an ellipsis at the opening of a quote, even if it does not start at the beginning of a sentence.) As you can see, I’m being quite technical, but that’s only because in conception your blog has so much merit that for me it seems more beneficial to critique the form and presentation.

    Thanks for sharing,
    Elle Lammouchi

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  11. The most original idea I saw in this blog post was the abolitionist “Freetown” colony. It makes sense that in order to establish something for the ex-slaves they decide to put them in their own separate colony and it goes to show how even when they managed to free the slaves they don’t consider them worthy to be dwelling within their society, they still consider the slaves beneath them. Something you could also expand on is why you think the cartoonist intended by including this piece of text in this specific cartoon.

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  12. It is interesting you mention this “free town” that was established for ex-slaves because I did not notice this detail when I read. I think this supports your idea that the people in the painting are still divided among and not really free in this “free town.” Elaborating more on the idea of a “free town” in the painting could help support your analysis on Equiano’s idea.
    -Natalia Alvarado

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  13. I didn’t realize that there were various issues within the image, such as the one she focused on based on the “releasing” of the slaves. That’s an important issue to look at when trying to understand exactly what the cartoonist was trying to say, as well as why. Aside from that, maybe a way to improve this would be that instead of an emphasis (from my perspective at least) on “the abolitionists meant well” she could have also acknowledged that they really didn’t know what the issue was–which is also very common and sometimes the reason most of our “solutions” don’t necessarily work when addressing social issues and such.

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  14. Hi Katie,

    I love that you further discussed this topic, which we did not have time to fully discuss at the end of our discussion section on Wednesday. I think that the most important statement in your argument is, “The abolishonists needed to see the freed slaves as equals before anything could really be done to help them and I think that is what the artist was trying to say.” However, it was disappointing to me that it came as your closing line. In terms of what could make this blog better, I feel as though your blog would have had a stronger focus had you led with this line (or one similar to it) and then worked to use a close reading of the image to support your argument. I thought it was excellent that you used quotes from the book to back your claim (since Port Seirra Leone is certainly specifically mentioned, despite popular opinion). I also commend you for going above and beyond by adding an addition link to a resource outside of our class so that way students who wanted to know more about this topic could be directed to further research. This is a great example on how to take something introduced in class and then expand upon it further, tying it in to outside research. Just a small note, I would refrain from using ellipses (…) as much as possible. I saw you did it in the sentence, “So, this art piece particularly the section above is not nessesarily for or against slavery but strongly against misguided white abolishonists who meant well, but we’re still seeing the ex slaves as property… as people unable to fit into society.” I’m not sure why you chose to put it here, but to me it communicates a pause for reflection and then clarification of a concept. Though this sort of pausing is common in speech, it weakens an argument to do so in writing. I think you could have easily just bridged the two examples by saying, “seeing the ex slaves as property [or at the very least] as people unable to fit into society.” (Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but I do not believe you need to use an ellipsis at the opening of a quote, even if it does not start at the beginning of a sentence.) As you can see, I’m being quite technical, but that’s only because in conception your blog has so much merit that for me it seems more beneficial to critique the form and presentation.

    Thanks for sharing,
    Elle Lammouchi

    Like

  15. The misguidedness of the white abolitionists is an original idea. It would have been nice to see why this particular zooming in of the image caught your eye.

    EC 22/25

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