Image 'Am I not a man and a brother?', 1837

TLF ID M008754

This is a black-and-white illustration of a kneeling male slave in chains. It appeared on a broadside (a poster, often with a poem or news and sometimes with woodcut illustrations) published in New York. The broadside also featured John Greenleaf Whittier's anti-slavery poem, 'Our countrymen in chains' and two quotations, one from the Bible promising death to slave traders or owners, and the other claiming 'England has 800,000 Slaves, and she has made them free. America has 2,250,000! and she holds them fast!!!!'

Educational details

Educational value
  • This illustration and its slogan were the most famous and recognisable symbols of the abolitionist campaign against the slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. As such, it is a valuable primary source for the year 9 history depth study elective Movement of peoples (1750-1901), which studies the influence of the industrial revolution on the movement of peoples throughout the world, including the transatlantic slave trade.
  • The drawing was originally commissioned in London in 1787 by the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade, the most important anti-slavery organisation of its time. The Quaker-led society had wanted a design for a seal and emblem that would encapsulate its motivation and mission. Josiah Wedgwood (1730-95), the famous English potter and prominent abolitionist, had the design modelled in his factory and mass-produced it in jasperware cameos that became immensely popular among anti-slavery campaigners.
  • Here the illustration is used in the USA, where it had become equally well known. Wedgwood's cameos were first shipped to the USA in 1788. As in England, they immediately became a fashion statement among abolitionists. In 1837 the American Anti-Slavery Society (1833-70) used the illustration to help sell its broadsides, one of the ways in which the society raised money to promote the anti-slavery cause. The broadside sold for 2 cents or 100 for $1.
Learning area
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: The Library of Congress
  • Organization: The Library of Congress
  • Description: content provider
  • Address: UNITED STATES
  • URL:
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Generic
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Commonwealth of Australia, 2011, except where indicated otherwise. You may copy, communicate and modify this material for non-commercial educational purposes provided you retain all acknowledgements associated with the material.