Anti-slavery Jasperware medallion

Josiah Wedgwood was involved with many leading anti-slavery supporters, including William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson. In order to moblise popular public support for the abolition movement, Josiah Wedgwood produced an anti-slavery medallion in 1786. The ceramic black and white Jasperware medallion depicts a kneeling slave in chains and the motto ‘Am I not a Man and a Brother’ and was designed by William Hackwood.

This symbol and motto was adopted by the Committee for the Abolition of Slavery, of which Josiah Wedgwood was a member, on 16 October 1787 for their seal. The black and white jasper medallion is regarded as Wedgwood’s earliest edition of the medallion.

Aimed at the British public and Parliament many of whom saw themselves as the sole liberators of the enslaved African, the symbol became very popular. Its depiction of a supplicant African on their knees pleading emanicipation has drawn criticism from both contemporary and modern audiences who argue that it re-enforces the idea that enslaved people were ‘passive’ in the abolition movement when in fact they actively fought against their own enslavement.

© Hull Museums

Accession reference: Hull Museums KINCM: 2006.6034