Cruikshank pro Slavery

The 1826 satirical cartoon from Robert Cruikshank is seen as a pro slavery and anti abolitionist piece of artwork.  The image appears to be pro slavery because of the subtle clues and details of the cartoon. For example these anti slavery theme is seen in the placement and actions of europeans in the scene, the liveliness of the tide and the natives in the background. Most of the prominent europeans in the cartoon are satirical depictions of abolitionist. These depictions are displayed as corrupt and they appear to be distorting how slavery appears to others. The abolitionist with his back to the viewer has a sign in one hand and a buy off check in his back pocket. Having one of the abolitionist be displayed as corrupt shows how Cruikshank made this piece to be clearly pro slavery. In Cruikshank’s cartoon one of the abolistinst is holding a picture of a slave being flogged by a white man in front of a telescope pointed at peaceful natives waiting on the shore for the slave ships. Also, The abolitionist holding up the picture appears to be cursing god, i see this because his facial expression and how he holds his palms face up to the sky.

This picture is in direct contrast with the ideas and views in The Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano. This narrative discuss  the grim and downright inhumane reality of the west indies slave trade.  The purpose of creating this narrative was to show the british the reality of the slave trade, in hopes that parliament will abolish it. Equiano show these motives when he writes, “But is not the slave trade entirely a war with the heart of man? And surely that which is begun by breaking down the barriers of virtue involves in its continuance destruction to every principle, and buries all sentiments in ruin!” (Equiano 110). This perspective from equation shows how wrong Cruikshank’s pro slavery image is. Cruikshank’s pro slavery perspective stems from the economic advancement and prosperity that the slave trade creates. Equiano rejects this idea because he feels that the white man should not profit off the backs of African people.

-Conor Morgan


In-class student blog comments

In-class blog comments exercise (15-20 minutes):

  1. Choose ONE of the four student posts (hyperlinked below) that presents an interesting perspective you never considered.
  1. In the post’s comment box, answer the following question: What is the most original idea presented in this post and how could the student’s interpretation be improved? (3-4 sentences will suffice)

Student blog posts:

1. Daniel Corral:

2. Sara:

3. Katie:

4. William:




“Out of Focus”



“How comes it that all the white men on board who can read and write, and observe the sun, and know all things, yet swear, lie, and get drunk, only excepting yourself?”(188).  This passage while a rational question to ask, implicitly exposes the contradiction and hypocrisy that an Indian chief’s son witnesses and points out to Equiano amidst the Englishmen.  The young man, though seen as a “poor heathen” -as described in Equiano’s words, appears not be fooled by the fog of Christian rhetoric that they use to control natives and slaves.The young man’s clear point of view is, essentially illustrated,  within Robert Cruickshank’s anti-abolitionist cartoon.

Being that Equiano had tried to Christianize the young man, even to refer to the English author John Fox’s work Book of Martyrs, the young man became extremely confused with was being preached to him versus the corruption that was being displayed before his eyes.  Cruickshank’s cartoon is, too, confusing and hypocritical.  The red herrings found within that cartoon were cleverly placed there as propaganda to deter people from seeing the ugly truth about slavery -to continue to nurture the ignorance that caused people to go with the status quo of pro-slavery, in the first place.

The biggest conflict and contradiction is Equiano’s sense of allegiance in believing he must help the young man’s disbelief of Christianity.  Just like Cruickshank has attempted to persuade the people from not believing that slavery is even happening, Equiano is doing the same toward the young man’s state of mind about corruption in religion.  

While Cruickshank’s behavior cannot be excused, the conclusion to his way of thinking can only be sheer ignorance.  Equiano’s, on the other hand, is reprehensible as he knows first hand the experience of being enslaved, as well, the act of his cries going unheard -or worse, ignored.  

Cruickshank has skewed the focus on the lens for the audience who he knew he could bamboozle, and Equiano tried to do same with the young man, but failed.  Still, it did not affect Equiano much as he carried on with more undertakings and more missions, all while taking on his own slaves to help build plantations he’d come to own.  Thus, there is not much of a difference between the lies that are placed in the cartoon to the lies Equiano lived.

-Maricela (Marcy) Martinez


Unshackling the Drawing

In McLean’s monthly sheet of caricatures No.32, there is a vivid outreach for sympathy to the European on the left of the image. The faded, dull colors, the fragile chair, and expression of hardship make the viewer believe people of color already have a prosperous lifestyle. A lifestyle better than the Europeans is argued as well from observation. To the right, we can see ripe fruit, unity of a community, vibrant colors, and an overall image that is a vacation. We also see a walking baby which is a happy moment for a family and it also shows that the baby is in good health. Whites feared that slaves would revolt and retaliate against them (Equiano 17-18). Incorporating slaves into a free society was a fear for many whites. However, all is not paradise as it seems. “It was very common in several of the islands for slaves to be branded with the initial letters of their master’s name…make them seek refuge in death from those evils which render these lives intolerable” (Equiano 99). Truly horrific must be the conditions for someone to want to take their own life in order to receive some sort of salvation. The drawing I feel is perceived to make it seem as though slavery is humane and that the Europeans face hardships at time in order for the slaves to be comfortable. Katie shared a great link from “The Guardian”, added below. Henry Smeathman spoke before the Lords of the treasury of an idea to send back black people to Sierra Leone. Smeathman made it seem as if it was the best deal in the world to head back to Africa’s Sierra Leone.”One of the most pleasant and feasible countries in the known world” – Sierra Leone’, Smeathman made it sound like there was certain refuge and safeguard. It angers me because many of us are certain that by sending blacks back to Africa, they can easily be kidnapped again and sent to the West Indies, or somewhere less forgiving: “will find a certain and secure retreat from former suffering”(Schama) is just smoke and mirrors for the wealthy lords who mean well wanting to abolish slavery. They are just unknowledgeable of what really would occur.

So to tie it in to Equiano’s view, he is not fond of sending them back. Similar to John Annis, his friend from St. Kitts, Equiano knew that harm was certain. Like the lawyer that took his money and did nothing, the similar thing happened for the funding to supposedly take care of the people heading back to Sierra Leone. I feel Equiano changed his approach toward the ending of the book only because he was talking to a European audience so it was in his best interest to sound a bit nicer than he probably really felt about the issue. In addition, the grammar in the cartoon shows the black conversation to be very poorly constructed. Ignorance and poor education is evident. Although the cartoon intends to depict pro slavery, many abolitionists were simply unguided and did not know how to make the proper decisions. Intermarriage was also a radical idea at the time like Equiano suggested so I doubt that intermarriage would have been widely accepted. The white abolitionists were simply misguided.


-Daniel Estrada

Equiano’s Abolition

The first painting, John Bull Taking a Clear View of the Negro Slavery Question, questions the motives of abolition, asserting through subtle political cues that abolitionists are “in it for the money.” The man who claims it is a sin to buy anything other than East India sugar has stock in the East India company. Where the Africans are seen dancing, there is a trick in place to make them appear tortured, to make the general populace agree: slavery should be gotten rid of.

In many ways, this straw-man critique of “oh hey look, abolitionists are bad” can actually be targeted at Equiano. Equiano is one of the abolitionists who wants to see slavery removed for economic reasons. Equiano says “a commercial intercourse with Africa opens an inexhaustible source of wealth to the manufacturing interests of Great Britain… The abolition of slavery, so diabolical, will give a most rapid extension of manufactures, which is totally and diametrically opposed to what some interested people assert.” Here Equiano takes the slavery question, the torturous, “diabolical” act of slavery, and calmly, casually, looks at the question and provides an answer to the question. Equiano says, “listen. If we stop the slave trade, we get to go to Africa, colonize that too, and increase our manufacture. Nobody wants to trade with the diabolical masters. Even if you think slavery is good for industry, you’re thinking small scale, plantation size. Let’s go big scale. Let’s think on a continental scale.”

In this way, Equiano partially exemplifies the abolitionists in the “Clear View” painting. He is the money driven abolitionist who is more economic than moral, but he is not the emotionally manipulative, East India stockholder. He is a calm, rational, money-driven ass.

-Ross Koppel


Equiano’s Truth

In Robert Cruikshank image we can see a lot of things going on that can suggest either a pro or anti slavery message. As we get closer into the image we can see a lot of little scenes that illustrate what Cruikshank is trying to say. In the right side of the picture we can see what appears to be an island full of natives who seem to be minding their own business. On the other island or boat we can see what appears to be the europeans discussing and making assumptions about the natives from far away. The island is full of auctions, petitions and images all dealing with the natives while they are primarily concerned with themselves on their own island. I believe the  image isn’t pro or anti slavery rather anti-abolotionism as Cruickshank pokes fun at their ideals as they show illustrations of slaves being whipped and tortured on the walls of the building asking for signatures on a petition to abolish slavery. They are also using these images to obstruct the view from the telescope looking onto the island suggesting that these images are not the truth and the abolitionist are simply obstructing the facts.

Even if the illustration was suggesting that the abolotionist strenchted the truth, there’s enough evidence in Equiano’s narrative to justify abolitionism. People like Cruickshank can argue that conditions are not as bad as they are portrayed to be and claiming that abolotionism is still favoring white abolitionist is absurd. Equiano writes in his narrative about the time he was seperated from his sister:

“It was in vain that we besought them not to part us; she was torn from me, and immediately carried away, while I was left in a state of distraction not to be described. I cried and grieved continually; and for several days I did not eat any thing but what they forced into my mouth.”

No argument made by anti-abolitionist can justify the cruelty that was endured by the slaves. They were seen crying for their families and even committing or attempting suicide but the slave owners continued the practice for their own economic advancement. The illustration critiques abolitionist for their hypocrisy but in people but what the is saying more than that as the illustrator is demonstrating how slave owners were still being incredibly cruel to the natives by stripping them of their families and the land they knew and grew up on. If the argument the illustration is making is simply that torture is not occurring and its a front to abolish slavery, it wouldn’t justify the capture and taking of innocent people from their homeland and the separation and destruction of their families. Equiano’s narrative tells us what actually happened and how someone who went through it actually felt which makes it a much more power primary source  when compared to this illustration from the same period that lacks specific information and solid evidence.

-Noel Nevarez

Double Consciousness in Equiano

The topic of slavery has always had aspects of sentimentality attached to it, but this political cartoon of the 19th century politicizes the implications it had on the demographic of the countries affected by the slave trade. More than anything, it shows the economic impacts it had on the poor Irish in America in addition to the commercial interest of The East India company. In other words, some of the domestic outcry was that abolitionist movements were not exactly the most benevolent organizations in the ending of slavery since they were being paid by the corporate interest of the East India Co. Money is always in part of the equation when it comes to parties of opposing opinions. While this cartoon implies the rhetoric of abolitionist movements was to appeal to the sentimentality of Americans, the maker of this cartoon is ironically appealing to his audience by using the pathos of the audience regarding the Irish refugees. In Olaudah Equiano’s narrative, he appeals to the sentimentality of the reader as well, but he also uses a type of bias rhetoric to appeal to his readers, largely white. In volume 2, chapter 6, he cites a quote of one of the people that he served to appeal to white readers about his own docile sensibility in order to avoid alienating white readers. The person who oversaw Equiano says, “I consider him an excellent servant. I do certify that he always behaved well, and that he is perfectly trustworthy” (193), and this removes any hostility away from his confronting of the question of slavery. Furthermore, he is, as W.E.B. Dubois would say, putting a “veil” on his own subjectivity by seeing himself as an inherently second-class citizen. By doing so, he is assimilating to the culture of whites in Britain, but not assimilating their full citizenship. This is also emphasized when he alludes to his own slaves as his “poor countrymen” and “poor creatures” when he implies that he will not be there to watch over them (193-194). In effect, he is placing yet another layer of marginalization by lowering his own slaves even further from full citizenship. Equiano is using the benefit of his freedom and economic status to bring himself closer to full citizenship, but he is exploiting the status of his own slaves to imply a sort of hierarchy over them by claiming ownership. However, as Dubois would say, he also has a double consciousness that allows him to see through two lenses of subjectivity: white and black. Although he is trying to exploit his status of freedom, he is also empathizing with his fellow “countrymen” to advocate for the better treatment of them. On one hand he is dehumanizing them by elevating his status, but on the other he is also using sentimentality to appeal to the readers about the better treatment of slaves.

–Cesar R

Paint the View for Everyone

The photograph is showing the horrible and tragic decision of slave owners; this is evident by the children who are signing papers. It is obvious that the children are not 18 there fore they are not considered adults (at least in the US). The man holding the telescope is locking the view from others. He is blocking the view of the bright water, and the people in the island. There are also people on the floor their clothes looks very dirty and toen however, they are not being used as slaves. I believe the picture is sending the message to others that says something along the live son how different and beautiful the world would be if everyone was free. I believe this is due to the fact that the illustrated imagine shows a not so pretty side therefore it makes the viewer imagine what the world would be like if it were the opposite way.

This can be a reason why some agree it is anti slavery and others agree that it is pro-slavery. It can make many aware of the situations that are happening, not just adult suffer but also children. If they see someone older doing something then they will do the same thing even if it is a bad decision. In this picture we see different kinds of people and they are all either in the boat or outside of it. Similar  to howl people have the same options of accomplishing things but not all of them can due to the lack of resources.

In Equiano’s narritve he rferres to his slaves as “poor slaves”  (193) this is very horrible for him to say as he should support them not degrade them.

-Luz Zepeda

Slavery of Mankind

The political picture shown above by an unknown artist appears to be an anti-slavery depiction at first glance. However, through further examination of the picture it becomes clear that the picture is more of a campaign for that white man deserve all of the freedom that unowned Africans have. The cartoon depicts happy Africans sitting under a tree happily with their families. Their only cares seem to come from what they will eat that day and how they are living. This cartoon portrays the laws and rules of a developed society as a type of oppressing subjugation. Therefore, the artist makes it seem as if white men who are privileged over other races are still slaves to the documents such as the Bill of Rights and Magna Carta which are put in place to prevent societal chaos. This picture shows the life pf an American man as oppressed and unfair because they are slaves to an authority that is greater than them.

Without intention, the only thing that this picture made me think of is white privilege. It is interesting how those in a position of power are still able to find something to complain about. This attitude results in those in a position of power only focussing on their own troubles and strife. Thus, they become ignorant to the plight of others. Perhaps the artists intention was to call attention to this phenomenon and help us to understand that everyone suffers, it is ignorance and selfishness that makes us blind to the plight of others. As the man in the cartoon suffers there is an outside point of view that sees the Africans having fun. Thus, from this perspective it seems like the white man is being punished for working hard and essentially slaving away, while the Africans live a care free life without doing anything to ultimately help advance their society. This is a seriously twisted and radical point of view, especially because it takes one of the worst aspects of a life of the privileged and one of the best from the life of the less fortunate, or so it seems. In my perspective, this cartoon expresses some major insight into the mindset of colonialist white males. This picture provides justification for slavery in the sense that it advocates against slavery of white men because they work so hard to provide for their nation and help them prosper. Thus, in this interpretation of the cartoon it becomes a way to justify the enslavement of Africans because, for one, they are jealous of the care free life that the Americans ignorantly presume they are living. As well as, because they believe that the Africans do not deserve to love this life because they haven`t earned it. This is a puritanical mindset that encourages the idea that hard work deserves reward. This mindset carries over into the justification of slavery without proper evidence that supports that the Africans don`t work hard, a notion that Americans only assumed because of the lack of technological presence in there society.

Unfortunately, Equiano is subjected to assimilation and is compelled to comply with this perspective of American idealism, as written in Olaudah Equiano’s narrative

“He taught me to shave

and dress hair a little, and also to read in the Bible, explaining

many passages to me, which I did not comprehend. I was wonderfully

surprised to see the laws and rules of my country written almost

exactly here; a circumstance which I believe tended to impress our

manners and customs more deeply on my memory.”

In this statement Equiano describes the process in which he is being assimilated into white culture. Although he is not official accepted as on of them, he is physically and mentally prepped in order to encourage better treatment. Even his idea of morality is explained through a cultural lens. Although he is able to identify with the laws and rules of what were written in relevance to his cultural customs, he is still viewed as different. Despite them abiding by the same beliefs and internal moral codes, he is still treated as lesser by the white people. It is because of these snap judgements that these colonialists make based on appearance and without any understanding of  the slaves lifestyle, beliefs and ethical values they are able to treat them bad. Thus, the result of ignorance is ultimately dehumanization.

-Kamani Morrow

The “Lesser” of Two Evils

In the image published in Mc Lean’s Monthly Sheet of Caricatures (#32) the diction choices of slavery vs. freedom are questioned. In the cartoon there is a rather pump (and thus, not struggling) man, prominently in the middle of frame, elevated above the others proclaiming, “Think of the poor suffering Affricans called a slave unpossessed of any of the rights and privileges that you enjoy, while you sit under the rine of your reform bill and the fig-tree of your Magna [Carta] – He knows nothing of such blessings.” However, while the man (who looks like a preacher) is speaking, specifically of the “poor suffering Affricans,” (who are depicted on the right side of the image) his left hand is extended towards the “European” family. The implication here is that this family on the left is the one to “sit under the rine” and have “such blessing” as the “rights and privileges” that free men “enjoy.” However, if one addresses their attention to the bottom of the image, the word “slavery” appears underneath the European family, whereas the word “freedom” appears under the African family.

If one looks at the families themselves, it seem1s obvious that the Europeans are the ones being depicted as suffering, whereas the Africans are depicted as having a jolly good time. The European father is sitting at a chair, obviously down trodden with his head buried in the crook of his right arm and the other arm lays limp at his side. His body appears thin and frail. The speech bubble above his head reads, “Yes unless I draw a cart harnessed like a beast and get fed by the Parish.” This is in response to his (ever comforting) wife, laying a hand on his shoulder and questioning, “What must an industrious and honest man starve in a country like this.” In addition, there are papers titled “taxes” staked to the ground. This implies that taxes (or the government) are oppressing the European man and that he is no more than a work mule, having to take to the fields and accept charity in to survive.

However, on the other side of the picture, the African family is depicted as having an abundance of resources and comforts. The “fig-tree” is here, casting shade over a family of sizable proportions (denoting that they are not starving) discussing the consumption of food. The father questions the child in broken English, “A ah pieaninny you eat yam yam you belly full?” The mother replies, “Ess sambo he berry like you.” In the background other African people can be seen dancing, depicting “privilege” and “enjoyment.” Also, at their feet is their very livelihood, food of the earth, growing in abundance, promising fortitude.

I would argue that this image is pro-slavery. I believe that it is propagating that if the “white-man” promotes the end to slavery (or the abolitionist movement), then he, himself will become a slave to the ever demanding government which lords over him. The image mocks the “Magna Carta” (1215) which for centuries had been celebrated as a literary symbol for the freedom from oppression. It likewise mocks, the “reform bill,” (which I believe to a reference to the Reform Act of 1832) which gave men in the Americas more rights to representation in Parliament. However, while the “preacher character” is implying that these are “privileges” in terms of the “rights” European families (though specifically men) could “enjoy,” the image clearly contradicts itself, implying that the African family is free from the cares of dealing with bureaucracy more or less. This sort of visual rhetoric reinforced, not eliminated oppression.

On page 121 of Equiano’s narrative, “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olauduh Equiano,” Equiano addresses this idea of what it means to truly be free, verses enslaved and how in many ways both are faulty explanations for existence. “Hitherto I had thought only of 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 life in constant alarm of their liberty.” He continues, “In this situation is it shrouding that slaves, when mildly treated, should prefer even the misery of slavery to such mockery of freedom?” Although here Equiano is talking specifically regarding an incident in which a free man (born free) is suddenly taken into slavery based on some ill grounded claims, I would argue his thought process extends beyond that one isolated incident.

However, precarious the situation of a “free” man in terms of one with African decent may be, I believe here Equiano’s words can be removed from their current context and be applied to the more extensive narrative of existence. Here he grapples with conceptions of “freedom” verses “slavery” and in the end seems to conclude that they are merely words, insignificant and meaningless without societal reinforcement. This idea of the “misery of slavery” verses “the mockery of freedom” reminds me of the age old saying, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” Here Equiano is sympathizing with people who would rather recognize and work within the confines of oppression than to be exposed to the cruel and unforgiving elements of both obtaining and maintaining freedom.

When we consider the politically charged illustration, the interchangeability of the terms freedom and slavery are based on societal context. This is why there are various forms of “slavery” in virtually all societal contexts. However, though varying forms of oppression will never be fully avoidable and thus true freedom is not an achievable goal with in the constrains of society, there is no excuse whatsoever for whole groups of people to oppress one another and then act as though that oppression, in and of itself is a relief. Being oppressed is not a “right,” nor a “privilege” and it is surely not an activity to “enjoy.”


Elle Lammouchi