[Philadelphia]: [Mathew Carey], [May 1789].
Engraving. 5 1/2 x 16 3/4 inches. Framed. Disbound on right edge, foxing, light vertical folds Cheryl Finley, Committed to Memory: The Art of the Slave Ship Icon (Princeton University Press: 2018). Item #314926
The earliest American publication of this provoking symbol of the abolitionist movement, depicting the horrors of the Middle Passage.
First published in Plymouth, England in late 1788 to accompany a 4-page abolitionist essay by William Elford and the Plymouth chapter of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade, this version was published by Mathew Carey within the May 1789 issue of his Philadelphia magazine the American Museum, at the request of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. It would subsequently be published by Carey for the Society as a separate broadside with Elford's text below. Another version of the image would later be used by Thomas Clarkson in his The History of the Rise, Progress, and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave-Trade by the British Parliament.
The diagram of the lower hold of the slave ship Brooks, with rows upon rows of nearly 300 enslaved Africans for transport to America, became arguably the most widely-known and influential images of the abolitionist movement. Elford's original text aptly describes the trauma: "It may perhaps be conceived, from the crowded state in which the Slaves appear in the Plate, that an unusual and exaggerated instance has been produced; this, however, is so far from being the case, that no ship, if her intended cargo can be procured, ever carries a less number than one to a Ton, and the usual practice has been to carry nearly double that number ... The above mode of carrying the Slaves, however, is only one, among a thousand other miseries, which those unhappy and devoted creatures suffer from this disgraceful Traffick of the Human Species; which in every part of its progress, exhibits scenes that strike us with horror and indignation ... People would do well to consider that it does not often fall to the lot of individuals, to have an opportunity of performing so important a moral and religious duty, as that of endeavouring to put an end to a practice, which may, without exaggeration, be stiled one of the greatest evils at this day existing upon the earth"
An important icon of the.
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