anti-slavery medallion, Josiah Wedgewood, 1787

antislavery_medallion_large

This anti-slavery medallion was made for the manufacturer and abolitionist Josiah Wedgewood in 1787.  It represents a man enslaved, not imprisoned.  But the prisoner and the slave, as this small porcelain of a kneeling black man  suggests, have one thing in common:  each is completely dependent upon the will of someone else and thus unable to exercise their humanly defining freedom.  Wedgewood’s friend, the activist and abolitionist Thomas Clarkson was thrilled that these little medallion’s seemed to have the power to galvanize the opinion of polite society.  Clarkson wrote that some people  ” inlaid them 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.’

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