Factory of Josiah Wedgwood
Cameo, c. 1790 AD
Stoneware and gold
1.2 (height) in.
Etruria, England


Josiah Wedgwood was the most remarkable of all British pottery manufacturers, whose enthusiasm for classical designs and inventive techniques found an immediate market in both Europe and America and became the basis of the Wedgwood Company production. A prominent abolitionist, Wedgwood took strong interest in political and social issues and was outspoken in his condemnation of the slave trade.
Manufactured by Wedgwood but designed by his senior craftsman, William Hackwood, this anti-slavery oval cameo is one of hundreds created and distributed, starting around 1787, as part of a campaign to raise public awareness about the inhumanity of slavery.
In the center is a chained kneeling slave in black basalt relief above which appears the charged inscription, “Am I not a man and a brother?” The image was modelled after a seal for the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. In 1788, Wedgwood sent several medallions of this subject to diplomat and sympathetic fellow abolitionist Benjamin Franklin in the United States.
The piece is one of the first examples of a fashion item used to support a cause. The motif became the most important symbol of the abolitionist movement and was also featured on hatpins, brooches, and necklaces.


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