'A negro festival... in the island of St. Vincent'
This etching was made about 1800. It shows a festival on the Caribbean island of St Vincent and was published in 1801 in the third edition of The History, Civil and Commercial, of the British Colonies in the West Indies by the planter-historian Bryan Edwards. The owner of the original picture, Sir William Young, was one of the most prominent and effective pro-slavery campaigners in the House of Commons. He was a plantation owner in St Vincent and Tobago, where he later became governor. Festivals were important aspects of plantation life for the enslaved. Europeans were sometimes invited and made welcome. In this picture the pineapple is a symbol of welcome. The picture gives the impression of the enslaved enjoying a happy life in St Vincent. The reality, of course, was very different. The picture shows nothing of the harsh conditions and appalling treatment the enslaved had to endure on a day-to-day basis. The picture, provided by a pro-slavery plantation owner for publication in a book by a pro-slavery writer, gives a distorted view of plantation life. As the campaign to abolish the slave trade was still active, this image can be seen as pro-slavery propaganda.