Am I Not a Man and a Brother?

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In this block, the artist has chosen to highlight a commonly used symbol of the abolitionist movement; a slave kneeling with chained wrists held up, begging for his freedom. Created by members of the Clapham Sect of the Church of England in 1787, the image was so popularly consumed, historians have referred to it as a “pièce de resistance” of the campaign. However, the image is controversial to some because of the subordinate and sanitized representation it gives of slavery. Rather than portraying a reality of enslavement, torture, oppression, and resistance, the image appealed to the abolitionist ideals of morality, virtue, and truth. With this block, the artists urges their audience to grapple with the impact that historically sanitized images of slavery can cause, especially on younger generations. By portraying the slave as begging his oppressors for his freedom and humility, the image has replicated the very hierarchy it is trying to combat. Nonetheless, the image is contextualized with historical importance from the role it played in the abolitionist movement. By re-assessing images of abolition and rebellion, the artist urges people to contemplate popular controversies about the glorification of confederate monuments and the legacy of slavery in shaping American national identity.