‘A negro hung alive by the ribs to a gallows’

This engraving shows a man brutally hung up, while still alive, by a hook through his body. The print was used in John Gabriel Stedman’s Narrative of a Five Years’ Expedition Against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam. Stedman was hired by the Dutch to help quell slave uprisings in their South American colony of Surinam. In his account he describes the plants and animals he encountered, as well as how runaway slaves who had been recaptured were tortured.

The image depicts what would happen after major rebellion by the enslaved against inhumane conditions. Many of the images used in Stedman’s account were developed from his sketches by the poet and artist William Blake. This graphic depiction of a slave hanging by a single rib while still alive illustrates the extreme cruelty in the treatment of enslaved Africans in the Americas. This engraving became one of most widely reproduced pieces of all anti-slavery art.

Issues: A graphic brutal image

© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, UK

Accession reference: National Maritime Museum, D7489_6