Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

In the early 19th century, British abolitionists took their fight to domestic objects. Two prominent symbols of the movement to abolish slavery and the slave trade adorn this transfer-printed jug. The seated figure in chains was the emblem of the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. “Am not I a man and a brother?” he asks the viewer, as a slave ship bears down on the coast. On the opposite side of the jug are excerpts from a well-known anti-slavery ballad by poet William Cowper.

Britain ended the slave trade in 1807, and finally abolished slavery in the British Empire in 1838. To what extent objects like this influenced popular thinking is an open question. Leading abolitionist Thomas Clarkson praised their effect, noting that fashion, “which usually confines itself to worthless things, was seen for once in the honorable office of promoting the cause of justice, humanity and freedom."

Identification and Creation
Object Number
2015.33
People
Unidentified Artist
Title
Abolition Jug
Classification
Vessels
Work Type
vessel
Date
c. 1810-1820
Places
Creation Place: Europe, United Kingdom, England, Staffordshire
Culture
British
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/353260
Location
Level 2, Room 2240, European and American Art, 17th–19th century, The Arts in the Eighteenth–Century Atlantic World
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Pearlware
Dimensions
15 x 17.8 cm (5 7/8 x 7 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: front: AM NOT I / A MAN AND / A BROTHER
  • inscription: back: [around the edge:] THE NEGRO'S COMPLAINT; [center:] Fleecy locks and black complexion. / Cannot forfiet [sic] natures claim / Skins may differ but affection, / Dwells in white and black the same. / Slaves of gold whose sordid dealings. / Tarnish all your boasted powers: / Prove that you have human feelings. / Ere you boldly question ours.
Provenance
[Rex Stark, Gardner, MA], sold; to [Robert Hunter, Yorktown, VA] sold; to Harvard Art Museums, 2015
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Augustus S. Cobb, by exchange
Accession Year
2015
Object Number
2015.33
Division
European and American Art
Contact
am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu
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Publication History

Sophie Lynford, Natalia Vieyra, and Joanna Sheers Seidenstein, "In Honor of Juneteenth", Index Magazine, Harvard Art Museums ([e-journal], June 19, 2020), https://www.harvardartmuseums.org/article/in-honor-of-juneteenth, accessed June 29, 2020

Exhibition History

32Q: 2340 Cabinet Gallery, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/05/2015 - 09/24/2019

32Q: 2240 18th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/22/2019 - 09/12/2022

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This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu