The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Mohammed Alfassa, or Amadeus Matthias, the Syrian, Written by Himself.

This is an excerpt from The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Mohammed Alfassa, or Amadeus Matthias, the Syrian, Written by Himself:

I walked beside my mother and sister in an alleyway that I grew beside playing ball, no longer familiar to my precious memories, by collapsed houses and overwhelming rubble accumulation. Today, I could no longer support the white-helmets, those who rushed urgently to the dire need of air-strike afflicted individuals, because I must attend to my mother and sister who grow increasingly frail in the absence of once copious street vendors bustling the streets endorsing a variety of vegetable and scrumptious meats. We search for a roaming trader, to disperse his valuable consumables, but we receive nothing but looks of consternation amongst waves of individuals in the city of Aleppo. I encounter a child not yet of five years who in an exchange of optic conversation, delivered to me a countenance of dejection and confusion. My soul continually grows weary, as I discover corpse after corpse of unidentified disfigured remains, bloodied and maimed by relentless ballistic destruction. We finally come across a luscious patch of grass and unravel a bundle of newspaper, boiling the conjunction into a warm porridge. The twilight shade engulfs the firmament, and we set our blankets on a bed of rock and pray for the sun to rise tomorrow.

The sun had yet to rise, but an incineration of foul venom suffocated me and terminated my slumber. I gasped for air and inhaled a deep dosage of the most painful breath I had ever experienced. I glanced to my side and witnessed a heart-wrenching scene of my sister grimacing in agony. I turned to my mother whose condition appeared far more dreadful as she winced an unconscious pain. I helped my sister up as she stumbled to keep her balance, and I carried my mother as we proceeded to a walk a path of chaos. Distant shrieks of agony and visible sights of convulsing children of a mixture of red, blue, and yellow complexion beside contorted figures in unimaginable presentation, the devil’s interpretation of yoga, rendered the whole a scene of horror almost inconceivable. My mother shook her head and waved us ahead a mixture of white and yellow froth oozed from her mouth. My sister and I carried on, as tears began to befall my eyes incessantly before I came across a overpacked caravan of half-dead children and groaning parents. I began to hope for moments for an end to my miseries, but I glanced over at my sister and held on to my last bit of hope.

O, ye fanatic terrorists! Might as you would men should do unto you? Is it not enough that we are torn from our country and friend to suffer for your lust of power? Must every tender feeling be likewise sacrificed to your bloodlust? Why are children to lose their parents, parents their children, brothers their sisters or husbands their wives? Surely this is a new refinement in cruelty, which has no advantage to atone for it, thus aggravates distress, and adds fresh horrors even to the wretchedness of war.

To my dear readers,

I choose to emulate Oladauh Equiano’s captivity narrative in a contemporary manner of entirely different circumstances. I wanted to exemplify the situation of the Syrian civil war and specifically showcase the recent usage of sarin gas attacks by using Equiano’s  tale to relate notions of grievance and suffering. Honestly, I have not spent enough time keeping up with the crisis every day, and I often forget the disparity of our living situations in the U.S. and the horrific scene in Syria. I think about refugees in the past, and I feel intertwined with their fates, as I am practically a refugee product of a seemingly oppressive communist regime during the Vietnam War. The United States is a nation of immigrants and has offered a hand for those in critical need, but in the 21st century’s bloodiest conflict, the United States has hardly stepped up to the plate that they once have. In researching for this creative writing project, I saw some incredibly graphic images and unbelievable scenes of destruction. I can’t possibly imagine how people continue to exist in this current state of affairs, but I saw a good deal of footage of people persevering and aiding each other in such a disastrous scene. I used actual narratives of those experiencing the crisis to reinforce my writing. The images of children who were under ten made me ruminate of their lives, as all they have seen is death and destruction. I tried to emulate Oladauh Equiano’s style which is not as difficult as some of the other readings assigned in this class, but some of his vocabulary is intense and somewhat antiquated, nonetheless, I incorporated some of this older vocabulary.  The last paragraph is very identical, and nearly a quotation of from Oladauh Equiano’s novel, that seems to be a call to those who possess the power, questioning their ethics. Although slavery and the situation of war in Syria are completely different scenarios, I felt that Oladauh Equiano best captured emotion-invoking imagery, and I felt it would be the best representation of the current state of affairs. I thought heavily about the prospects of journalism after working on this creative project, something I’ve considered since I was young. Thanks for reading.

Thomas Pham



Transatlantic Abhorrence and Abolitionist “Eyes on the Prize”

Let’s look at Cruikshank’s cartoon of “John Bull taking a Clear View of the Negro Slavery Question !!”

So who is John Bull? He is a personification of England, a reoccurring representation of the country in political cartoons and graphic images. Basically, John Bull is to England, what Uncle Sam is to the United States.

The cartoon is referencing certain abolitionist causes by questioning their ethics and putting into perspective the reasoning behind the abolition movement. Robert Cruikshank is a representation of the tragic depths of disgusting unethical blindness that a man can succumb to. He attempts to enforce the right of slavery by addressing the ethical standards of those who are attacking it. To me, that’s like robbing a bank and then accusing the people that are accusing you of robbing the bank by saying that they’re being paid by the bank. The questioning of ethics in abolition is irrelevant, whatever the reason for supporting abolition completely overrides the atrocity and act of slavery. In the cartoon, Robert Cruikshank shows Barbadoes as a land that is enjoying joy through dancing, when compared to the strife that some citizens of England were experiencing. Oladauh Equiano has else to say.

“Even in the Barbadoes, notwithstanding those humane exception which I have mentioned, and others I am acquainted with, which justly make it quoted as a place where slaves meet with the best treatment and need fewest recruits of any in the West indies, yet this island requires 1000 negroes annually to keep up with the original stock, which is only 80,000. So that the whole term of a negro’s life may be said to be there but sixteen years!”(Ch. 5). Equiano explains the brevity of life in the Barbadoes and explains that it is a small portion of the massive transatlantic slave trade, in which over 10 million Africans were taken from their homes. The slavery in the United States is not discussed or scrutinized in Cruikshank’s pathetic cartoon, and he dismisses the reality of the horrors, which is ironic in that he attempts to explain the blindness of abolition when his morality is the one most at concern with the illustration.

Education helps free the world. Oladauh Equiano’s narrative was a key proponent in abolishing the transatlantic slave-trade. Abolition of the slave trade in Britain helped pave the way for the freedom of slaves In the United States. Abolitionist leaders such as William Lloyd Garrison, who wrote “No Compromise with Slavery”, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Beecher Stowe borrowed from the British abolition movement, to express their beliefs and concerns. There are further interesting analyzations that could be formulated in a term paper about the connections of Equiano and his antebellum counterparts. Oladauh Equiano advanced the chain of events leading to more equal rights, and the term “Eyes on the Prize”, refers to the civil-rights movement in the mid 20th century that involved Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and so many others. Education or the lack thereof is a direct determination in crafting a view of humanity and enables the ability to defend or in Cruikshank’s case, attack it.

– Thomas Pham

True Freedom

The art from 1832 depicts two sides of the transatlantic slave trade, those who were free and those who were slave. However, what is necessary to focus on is the fact that in this pictures the usual rules between slavery and freedom are reversed. This picture shows freedom as something that is determined by how happiness. The man on the left, who is considered the slave of this image, describes his animal type job of tugging a cart around. Downward left of him there are many tax papers piling on the floor. As for the man on the right, who is considered the free man here, he is living with his family while watching his child grow. He has no taxes, but instead has a background filled with dancers. An overall happy lifestyle.

However, what caught my attention the most are the words said by the man in the center of the image, “Think of the poor suffering African called a Slave unpossess’d of any of the rights & privileges that you enjoy, while you sit under the vine of your Reform Bill and the fig-tree of your Magna Carta – He knows nothing of such blessings” These words seem to contradict the picture portrayed as the free families are those who do not fall under the words of the Magna Carta or Reform Bill.  

-Elizabeth Dominguez

Effects of Socialism

The bottom cartoon depicts the cultural differences between Britain and African countries. The man in the middle refers to Britain when he mentions the Reform Bills passed in British Parliament, which was supposed to have been for good causes but the cartoon reveal the contrary. The man is above the barrel, a vessel which holds liquid and dry goods, expressing his control over the goods of Britain. On the left, there is a British family who is suffering from starvation and debt, while on the right, there is an African family who is happy and well fed. Just based on physical attributes, the middle man is a lot plumper, while the rest are naturally thin. Based on what the man says in the cartoon, it is raising awareness of governmental powers in Britain with their ability to cover up the issues within their own country. The middle man spoke of the “poor suffering African” while ironically it is the other who are suffering. The grim look on his face tells me that that he is finding a justification to their people’s sufferings like he could prove that if some other people have it worse, what they are going through did not look so bad and the jumbled mess of books and reports on slavery beneath the barrel proves so. Another thing to point out is the growing pile of tax papers in the bottom left corner and, what I assume to be yams, growing in the bottom right corner. Here is a great illustration of the outcome to the bills mentioned above in Britain.

Olaudah Equiano observed “that in all the places where I was the soil was exceedingly rich; the pumpkin, eadas, plantains, yams, &c. &c. were in great abundance, and of incredible size” (64). Having already been kidnapped, he was still in his own country and has not yet boarded the ship at this point. He describes the availability of food in his country and since leaving, he describes his sufferings of starvation as a slave. Olaudah Equiano tells about the time his master took away his fish on page 112, maybe because of greed, paralleling the cartoon of the middle man holding all the food to let the family starve. He says “I also expected to get better food, and in greater abundance; for I had felt much hunger oftentimes” expressing one of many times he had starved and not having that desire fulfilled (115). The cartoon shows the British family under these conditions, but not the African family. Olaudah’s narrative proves that socialism not only affects the British, but anyone who are under the influence of British laws, including slaves.

Though the cartoon include aspects of slavery, it goes deeper to show the cultural differences of two people and the effects of socialism. Slaves are often treated as the poor and the helpless due to their lack of politics, but the cartoon reveal the power of masking real issues through politics. The man on the left mentions getting fed “by the Parish”, meaning the church, meaning he has to seek help in order to keep his family fed in a country that was supposed to be cultured and advanced. The cartoon also raises the idea of environmental exploitation as we see a normal tree on the right and a wooden chair and table on the left. To mention also, the chair is broken in places, symbolizing the ruined state of their country in which he sits on.

-Van Vang



An Inexpressive Caricature

The bottom photo, belonging to McLean’s Monthly Sheet of Caricatures and drawn in 1832, shows two kinds of families, wherein one depicts a family of slaves and the other, a British family. Clearly a satirical piece, it uses irony to illustrate what was happening in the time it was drawn, how free men saw slaves and furthermore, themselves.

 The British father is under distress as he lays his head onto his arm rested upon the table; he is very thin and offered by the dialogue, we know that he is not being fed. His wife asks him the possibility of a man of his status starving in their country, and he says it is possible, and that only a slave eats well, “yes, unless I draw a cart harness’d like a beast and get fed by the Parish.” This side of the caricature is labeled “SLAVERY,” that is, they’re “living like slaves” according to the artist. The other side of the drawing is labeled “FREEDOM” while a family of slaves is shown with their baby full of food, and beyond them: a group of men and women dancing. What this image is trying to convey is that the slaves are somehow freer than perhaps a family of plantation owners, in the sense that all their expenses (those they do not have) don’t have to be taken from them due to taxation, leaving them unfed. Their message is simply this: slaves are not all that bad off, in fact, they kind of enjoy living the way they do; they get to eat and enjoy life, whereas the “the others” truly have it bad.

However, Equiano would disagree with this message early on in his narrative (Chapter 2), where he’s having dreams of becoming part of someone’s family—a free man—and then startling himself awake to the horror of his reality:

“Thus, at the very moment I dreamed of the greatest happiness, I found myself most miserable; and it seemed as if fortune wished to give me this taste of joy, only to render the reverse more poignant. The change I now experienced was as painful as it was sudden and unexpected. It was a change indeed from a state of bliss to a scene which is inexpressible by me, as it discovered to me an element I had never before beheld, and till then had no idea of, and wherein such instances of hardship and cruelty continually occurred as I can never reflect on but with horror.” (70, e-text).

Equiano sees being a free man as being in “a state of bliss” and being a slave as an inexpressible horror. This opposes the message being conveyed in the photo. The artist is trying to say that slavery can be as beautiful as a nice summer’s day, dancing around and loving life. Whereas Equiano cannot express the horrors of finding himself, yet again, not a free man. In this passage alone, not only do we get the image of a frightened, lamenting Equiano, but in a sense—through no expressions of his hardship—we can also imagine the horror one endures in being enslaved. Surely it doesn’t consist of slave families joyously living on free time, able to be a family. The photo doesn’t reflect on what Equiano would state “wherein such instances of hardship and cruelty continually occur[ed]” (Ibid).

–Daniel Lizaola Lopez

Read This Post About Evil Equiano

Yes, this book “was reprinted and widely read well into the nineteenth century.” But who was reading it? Olaudah Equiano even claimed that he doesn’t expect “immortality or literary reputation”, only the satisfaction to of his “numerous friends” (43). But, which friends?

The narrative is written for the English slave owner. In a narrative that describes the individual struggles of an African Slave man, it upsets me to say, he actually put up a barrier for other narratives to be heard. This narrative, while it speaks on the experiences of one African slave, decentralizes the conversation of African slavery. It does so by not welcoming new narratives. In the opening letter, Olaudah Equiano doesn’t only discredit himself by apologizing for his lack of literary merit, but he also discredits the “unlettered African” (41). Instead of “becoming an instrument towards the relief of his suffering countrymen” (41), it appears he is upholding white supremacy. Because his narrative, along with his clothing in the front cover, is heavily informed by English culture, Christianity, and economic interests.

The Robert Cruikshank’s cartoon also blurs the individual struggles of African slaves. In both pictures, African slaves are given very little space on the picture. However, it puts the white people in the foreground. I think every attempt to branch away from slavery and start talking about something else is a waste of time. Of course, when the goal is to talk about slavery. In response to the question “Are they anti-slavery or pro-slavery?” In this particular instance, by not talking about slavery, both cartoons are pro-slavery.

What about Equiano? I think Olaudah Equiano does a good job making the white reader pick up his narrative and actually finish it in it’s entirety. But his work refutes the cartoon. While his narrative focuses on Englishness and whiteness, the impact might have been different in the long run. In the end, the English slave owner who put the book down had a different idea of slavery, himself, and the people working for him for free against their will. They were moved, granted, in a different way that we were moved in.

But should we forgive Olaudah Equiano for discrediting African writers? Or can we say that his work began to move people to be more compassionate than yesterday?

-Israel Alonso

The letter that is used in the beginning of the e-text that is addressed to the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and the Commons of the Parliament of Great Britain is interesting in the fact that it does not seem to represent Equiano throughout the narrative. There is a huge discrepancy between Equiano’s narrative and the letter, but why? Equiano thought about this book, knowing that the large public does not read anti-slave narratives, Equiano has to find ways in which his narrative does not threatened the power structure. As a free man with an education, Equiano’s peers and “men of reason” are just white males who have slaves. How can he criticize slavery without being penalized? He writes a letter. Similar in the way Dean Mahomet writes about his travels with the East India Company. Like Equiano, his narrative opens up with a letter addressed to Colonel William A Bailie of the East India Company where he apologizes for imperfections and inaccuracies of style because English wasn’t his first language. Although appearing to be submissive, Dean Mahomet’s narrative was questioned and subtly critiqued the EIC. Equiano seems to be doing the same. For instance, Equiano opens the letter with “My Lords and Gentlemen”, which create a sense that Equiano is not their equal and thus he should address them as such. He continues by saying, “permit me” as if he has no right to write his story because it goes against the grain. He notes that he is a “sensible man”, which implies that the only reason he disagrees with slavery is because it was something that personally affected him, as in “you think slavery is great, but from personal experience, I don’t think so, but those are just my personal feelings”. He even takes this notion further by noting that his narrative is “devoid of literary merit”. By doing this, Equiano puts himself in a position that is able to be critical of the dominant ideology in safe manner. He is playing dumb! Political cartoons seem to do that as well. Many consider them to be dumb or insignificant because they are cartoons and should not be taken as literary. But like Equiano, political cartoons try to convey a message whether it is good or bad. For example, the cartoon with the unknown artist portrays slavery as a paternalistic institution that pits Africans as less than. In this cartoon, Africans are portrayed as uneducated from the white people on the left side of the cartoon. One of the African characters says “you eat yam yam you belly full?” while the white people on the other side sound more intellectual in saying “What must an industrious and honest man starve in a country like this”. This cartoon suggest that black people don’t worry about slavery the same way abolitionist worry about slavery because they aren’t smart enough, for “[they] know nothing”. It continues the narrative of the oblivious, docile slaves, which is what Equiano does through the opening letter of his narrative. Although both portray the same image of the docile slave, there seems to be a different purpose to each. The cartoon appears to demean Africans, while Equiano attempts to redeem Africans because throughout the narrative he claims that “the abolition of slavery would be in reality an universal good…I hope the slave trade will be abolished”. But as we know, Equiano ends up buying slaves. So was the docile slave image an act for survival or not? Is he any better than the white abolitionist?


-Nancy Sanchez

The Extended Roots of Slavery

Robert Cruikshank’s political cartoon, titled “John Bull taking a Clear View of the Negro Slavery in Question,” leads to a critique outside the realm of the slavery and anti-slavery binary in that, he highlights the greed of abolitionist’s who have an economic interest in upholding slavery. Ironically, this is emphasized through the sign that states, “Buy only East India Sugar, ‘Tis Sinful to buy any other True East India Sugar.” Superficially, the sign would make one believe that the sugar coming from East India isn’t produced by slaves. Although, if we take a look at the abolitionist’s back-pocket, we can clearly read the paper: “Invoice, I.E. Sugar.” This immediately shifts the intention of the sign as well as the morality of the so-called abolitionist; he is secretly in favor of slavery due to his economic interest and investment.

Taking a look at Equiano’s Narrative, he also identifies the economic ramifications of the abolition of slavery as well as the abolitionist’s ties to trade:

“If I am not misinformed, the manufacturing interest is equal, if not superior, to the landed interest, as to the value, for reasons which will soon appear. The abolition of slavery, so diabolical, will give a most rapid extension of manufactures, which is totally and diametrically opposite to what some interested people assert.” (212)

This is not to say Equiano was wholly moral in his critique of abolitionist’s, though his identification of problematic slavery extends beyond the question of human rights. Slavery was an extensive network of labor that supported the economy of the colonies and parts of Africa.

Thus, Cruikshank not only critiques these specific types of abolitionist’s, but he also brings to light the deep economic roots of the slave system; the economy runs and profits from slavery. Without it, it would collapse along with many people’s source of income and labor. Then, the question is asked: What will happen when slavery is abolished?

-Daniel Corral

Equiano’s Internalization and his Subsequent Qualification of Bull’s Satricial Cartoon

What makes Olaudah Equiano’s slave narrative particularly interesting is its seemingly docile approach to slavery. Multiple times throughout the text, Equiano excuses the actions of his colonizers, internalizing many of their beliefs, and at times supporting the very actions he condemns. For this reason, readers witness a sort of role-reversal, with Equiano adapting into an Englishman, at times condoning colonization and slavery, while still remaining abolitionist. Equiano’s narrative harkens back to the problem with internalization; his narrative cannot be fully abolitionist due to his defense of his English countrymen. On multiple accounts, Equiano sheds light on the abuse he encounters with the English: he recalls how they frequently physically attacked him, and psychologically tortured him by withholding food from him and telling him that they would kill him. Perhaps in viewing John Bulls’ satirical cartoon in knowledge of Equiano’s narrative one could easily refute its claims, however this is not the case. If anything, Equiano’s narrative complicates the validity of the cartoon.

Bulls’ satirical cartoon is anti-abolitionist, serving as a rebuttal to abolitionist claims about the barbarity of slavery while also bringing in conversation about socio-economic problems. In the cartoon, Bull accuses abolitionists of manipulating the economy by advocating for East India Sugar companies, which at the time did not support slavery. In the cartoon, children sign a petition to seemingly prohibit slavery, while others look through a telescope lens at Africa, only to be blocked by nefarious pictures of “negro slavery”. Bull in doing this satirizes abolitionist claims, making a bold statement that abolitionists’ work is simply a plot to damage West India’s influx of support. Equiano’s narrative does little to combat Bull. Though he castigates the harshness of the English, he knowingly participates in slavery: he subjugates Indians using techniques he garnered from reading Columbus, and he even aids his slave master in choosing slaves being sold at an auction. Equiano even approvingly mentions in the beginning pages of his narrative that “[t]he West India planters prefer the slaves of Benin or Eboe to those of any other part of Guinea, for their hardiness, intelligence, integrity, and zeal. Those benefits are felt by us in the general healthiness of the people, and in their vigour and activity; I might have added too in their comeliness”. Equiano attributes the success of the West India companies use of slaves, which complicates the abolitionist narrative. In addition to this, Equiano trivializes his own suffering, remarking in his first chapter “I might say my sufferings were great: but when I compare my lot with that of most of my countrymen, I regard myself as a particular favourite of Heaven, and acknowledge the mercies of Providence in every occurrence of my life”. He remarks how not all Englishmen treated him with cruelty and distain, but that several of them touched his life in positive ways (e.g. his “little friend Dick”). Perhaps this is where Equiano’s narrative complicates the slavery narrative; he ceases to serve as abolitionist propaganda and instead serves the opposite. For these reasons, I would argue that Equiano’s narrative qualifies a good portion of Bull’s claims.

– Sara Nuila-Chae

New Slaves

These overseers are indeed for the most part persons of the worst character of any denomination of men in the West Indies. Unfortunately, many humane gentlemen, by not residing on their estates, are obliged to leave the management of them in the hands of these human butchers, who cut and mangle the slaves in a shocking manner on the most trifling occasions, and altogether treat them in every respect like brutes.

– Equiano, 105

This quote describes the overseers stationed in plantations of the West Indies. The overseers are described as the “worst character of any denomination of men in the West Indies” (105). Out of every single person from the West Indies, the overseers take the title of the world heavyweight championship for being the worst. In other words, the overseers are jerks and are so because of what they’ve done to the Africans. Equiano compares the overseers to butchers, as they “cut and mangle the slaves”. The description alone suggests how much torture and misery the slaves have gone through while working at the plantation. To be scarred and obtain scars, the overseers are not nice people and Equiano confirms that. Throughout the reading, he brings up the topic of religion. In this case, the overseers are religious and believers of God, yet they commit such hateful and heinous things toward the slaves. So why is that? Why are “good people” doing bad things? Equiano is definitely showing some sort of irony here with his type of writing.

Afterall, Equiano sort of becomes a hypocrite because after he becomes a free man, he accepts the job of becoming an overseer anyway. Even though he is not as vicious as the overseers he’s describing, it is definitely unpopular to accept the job of being an overseer. Kind of ironic don’t you think? Furthermore, this goes back to the title of my post: “New Slaves” by Kanye West. The song actually has some weight on this issue. In other words, Equiano would rather be a leader than a follower. To go with the unpopular opinion (becoming an overseer) rather than going against slavery. Or in another sense, he is becoming a new slave to European culture. He might not be in the fields working for them, but he is definitely on the fields working with them.

In the first cartoon, John Bull Taking a Clear View of Negro Slavery Question, by Robert Cruikshank, the quote by Equiano gives us context and helps us put the cartoon in perspective. As seen in the first satirical cartoon, here is a photograph of what seems to be a portrait of an overseer torturing a slave. This photograph is shown to a man who is looking at an island through a telescope. In my interpretation, it looks like the island could be the West Indies. However, from the viewer’s perspective we can see the island is filled with happy inhabitants dancing and celebrating. Zoom in the middle of the group of dancers, it seems to be an African woman dancing with a white man (or maybe the cartoon wasn’t painted completely). This might be a counter to Equiano’s statement about overseers– maybe they aren’t “brutes” or “butchers” but are instead “fun” and “relatable”. I mean why would an overseer dance with a group of slaves if they were these terrible human beings and vice-versa?

Anyway, back to the man looking through the telescope. The man holding pictures of slavery seems to imply how politicians use propaganda to support their cause. And in this case, it must mean that the man holding the photographs is an abolitionist and is trying to persuade the man in front of him to side against slavery. So who is the man looking through the telescope? Possibly John Bull. But who is John Bull? An Englishman that’s for sure. But why is he so important to be in the title of the cartoon? In my opinion, John Bull is the representation of the people of England. The abolitionist is trying to sway the people to see the cruelty and painful torture slaves go through. Now Cruikshank seems to be poking fun at abolitionists and politics in general.

Another major thing in the cartoon is the issue of the production of sugar. We have the West Indies vs the East India Company. As you can see in the left, a Quaker-like fellow is holding a sign that says “Buy only East India Sugar, ‘Tis Sinful to buy any other”. In his back pocket, it is seen that he has some stock in East India sugar. More or less, he doesn’t really care about the issue of slavery and how the production comes along, but more about promoting the brand and keeping his stocks up.

And on the far left of the cartoon is a petition to Parliament to remove the sugar production duties of the East India company. He goes on to do this by showing kids signing petitions on the left side of the cartoon. But why are kids signing a petition? Aren’t they too young to vote? Maybe he’s poking fun at petitions and how effective they are. But it’s definitely poking fun at how credible and valid they are (since children are voting). If anything, this is more of a cartoon about anti-abolitionist and using the issue of slavery to distract the viewers. Especially a sensitive issue like this one about treatment and dehumanization of others. Cruikshank throws in another worthy image in this cartoon about the mistreatment of others: the homeless man with children next to him. This seems to be a comparison of the poor families in England and the slaves in the West Indies. It seems that “Poor Pat” (term for Irish immigrants) is a representation of the Irish immigrants. He even draws a dog urinating on his sign! A sign that has incorrect spelling! This isn’t about slavery anymore, this is more of a wake-up call. Sure, there are people suffering in the West Indies (outside of Europe) but there are people suffering at home too. Maybe the abolitionists should look at the cruel and mistreatment of people at home instead of the slaves in the West Indies. All in all, this seems to be a satirical take on the abolitionist movement and ironic for Equiano. Equiano talks bad about the overseers but becomes an overseer anyway. Just as the cartoon pokes fun at England’s own problems vs the problems outside of England.

  • Christopher Luong