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Am I Not a Man and a Brother

Object Name: Antislavery medallion
Date: 1787
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Medium: Jasperware
Dimensions: Overall: 1 3/16 × 1 1/16 × 1/4 in. (3 × 2.7 × 0.6 cm)
Place made: England
Description: Black and white, oval medallion mounted as a brooch; depicts a kneeling male slave; text reads: "AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER;" verso has WEDGWOOD imprint
Credit Line: Gift of Selma H. Rutenburg, MD, given in memory of Nina & Jack Gray
Object Number: 2013.21
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English potter and abolitionist Josiah Wedgwood issued this jasperware medallion in 1787. It has an applied relief of a kneeling slave and the inscription 'Am I not a man and a brother?' and was modelled after the seal for the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade founded in that year by Thomas Clarkson. Wedgwood sent medallions to Benjamin Franklin in Pennsylvania in February 1788, and they were an immediate success. Clarkson wrote: 'some had them inlaid in gold on the lid of their snuff-boxes. Of the ladies, several wore them in bracelets, and others had them fitted up in an ornamental manner as pins for their hair. At length the taste for wearing them became general, and thus fashion…was seen for once in the honourable office of promoting the cause of justice and, humanity and freedom.' The design was also used in printed form on plates, enamel boxes for patches, as well as on tea caddies and for tokens. The American Anti-Slavery Society distributed English-made tokens based on this design (see N-YHS 2006.21.2), and in 1837 commissioned its own token from a New Jersey manufacturer with a related design showing a kneeling female and the inscription, "Am I not a woman and a sister?" (see N-YHS 2006.21.1).