Political cartoons are particularly interesting to analyze.
Political cartoons provide an interesting critique (or support) of a political topic of the time period. What you see above you is a critique of abolitionists, arguing that buying from another company provides better services/content than a company with slaves. Our class started reading about the issues of slavery within the Colonial period, discussing the issues through “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano.” Equiano gives readers a different perspective into slavery; a perspective that wishes to abolish it, but, dare I say (because it’s so VERY wrong to point this out), understands the reason it exist(ed).
Let’s keep in mind, Equiano wishes to abolish slavery, even having acted as an Overseer on a plantation himself. He understands the cruelty of White colonials against Black slaves. He understands how much the society permeates the need for slavery. And he further understands that he cannot change the way in which society thinks as he finds his identity. And In the end, Equiano reaches a very pessimistic state. A state that actually contributes to the very critique of this political cartoon.
“Hitherto I had thought only slavery dreadful; but the state of a free negro appeared to me now equally so at least, and in some respects even worse, for they live in constant alarm for their liberty; and even this is but nominal, for they are universally insulted and plundered without the possibility of redress; for such is the equity of the West Indian laws, that no free negro’s evidence will be admitted in their courts of justice. In this situation is it surprising that slaves, when mildly treated, should prefer even the misery of slavery to such a mockery of freedom?” — Equiano, 122
This passage gives the readers an understanding with which Equiano realizes he’ll never truly be free no matter how much he thinks so. Regardless of his own individual freedoms, what about every other colonial slave during this time period? Even if they are free they’ll still serve and contribute to the companies that import to the European colonies anyway. Which is why I chose the particular cartoon to analyze as you see above. If you look closely at the image, the Quakers are arguing that one should by from the East Indies because they do not use slavery to create their products, dubbing slavery as a sin. I point out the Quakers specifically over every other image in the cartoon (BECAUSE there are so many other critiques that are in this one image alone [Serving another point I will make at the end of the blog]).
Even while the motives of the Anti-Abolitionists are clear their actions serve a hidden motive as a result. That result? They gain more money. It gives them the advantage. And, in case you haven’t noticed, the contemporary society has displayed what people with money can do (both good and bad). Equiano realizes that while he may be free he’s just contributing the status of White men throughout the course of time. He may be free now, but he’ll continue to be oppressed no matter what he chooses to do.
Sound familiar? It does to me.
Of course, this whole analysis is because I took one small image and created context out of that entire picture. The political cartoon could mean something entirely different than what I chose to analyze. Who knows?
— Drew C. Guerrero