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Signet ring, with motto "Am I not a man and a brother?"

Additional Title(s):

Am I not a man and a brother?

Slave medallion

England, not before 1787.
Physical Description:
1 signet ring : gold with red stone (jasper?) ; face 28 x 21 mm, band 25 mm in diameter
Rare Books and Manuscripts
Flat D 2
Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Susan M. Yecies, Yale BA 1971
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Copyright Status:
Copyright Not Evaluated
Related Content:
View catalog record for Clarkson's letter bearing the Slave Medallion design embossed in black wax.
View catalog record for a fob seal bearing the Slave Medallion design
Three-Dimensional Artifacts
"On 5 July 1787 the London Committee resolved that 'a seal be engraved for use of this Society and that Joseph Woods, Dr. Hooper, and Philip Sansom be requested to prepare a design for the same.' On 16 October the subcommittee reported that Joseph Woods had 'brought in a specimen of a design ... expressive of an African in chains in a supplicating posture with the motto 'Am I not a man and a brother?' which being approved the subcommittee before appointed is desired to get it well engraved.' It is not clear whether the emblem was Woods's own design or that of an artist he employed, but the motif was engraved on a copper plate for printing purposes and appeared on Society publications as early as 1788. ... In late 1787, Wedgwood planned and produced a number of cameos or medallions based on the Society's seal, which were sculpted by his chief modeler, William Hackwood. ... The so-called Slave Medallion was tremendously successful, quickly becoming an icon of the abolitionist cause. ... the medallions were incorporated into bracelets, hairpins, and boxes, while the motif of the suppliant slave imploring, "Am I not a man and a brother?" adorned a wide array of objects ..."--Graham C. Boettcher, in Art and emancipation in Jamaica (2007), page 295.
The Slave Medallion "was modelled by William Hackwood in 1787 for production in black on white jasper, and Wedgwood distributed it freely to those closely concerned with the cause of abolition. At the end of February 1788 Josiah sent a quantity of these cameos to Benjamin Franklin ..."--Reilly.
The Yale Center for British Art also has a letter from Thomas Clarkson to Thomas Middleditch, 1842 (?), bearing the Slave Medallion design, in slightly variant form, embossed in black wax. This item is cataloged separately (see link provided herewith).
Art and emancipation in Jamaica, p. 295
Bindman, D. "Am I not a man and a brother?: British art and slavery in the eighteenth century." In Res 26 (Autumn 1994), p. 68-82
Honour, H. Image of the black in Western art, p. 62-64
Reilly, R. Wedgwood, v. 1, p. 114-115
Signet ring for wax seal, depicting an enslaved man in shackles and motto that reads (in reverse): "Am I not a man and a brother?" The image is after a design by William Hackwood, for Josiah Wedgwood, and was adopted as the seal for the London Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1787. The image and motto is engraved in red stone (jasper?), which is set in a simple gold ring. The ring bears no mark or inscription.
Subject Terms:
Antislavery movements -- Great Britain.
Black people in art.
Clarkson, Thomas, 1760-1846.
Slave trade -- Great Britain.
Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade.
Rings (jewelry)
Signet rings.
Woods, Joseph.
Webber, Henry, 1754-1826.
Hackwood, William, 1757-1839.
Josiah Wedgwood & Sons.
IIIF Manifest:

Figures of Empire: Slavery and Portraiture in Eighteenth-Century Atlantic Britain (Yale Center for British Art, 2014-10-02 - 2014-12-14) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

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