*https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2005/aug/31/race.bookextractsIn 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.