British Museum collections, £12.99
Diameter: 34.000 mm
Gift of Sophia Banks
CM Banks NJC 148
Room 46: Europe 1400-1800
Brass anti-slavery medal
London, England, around AD 1787
Am I not a Man and a Brother?'
Although slavery was a widely established practice in the British colonies during the eighteenth century, there was a growing sense of its brutality and prominent opposition to the trade emerged. In 1787, two men, Granville Sharp (1735-1813) and Thomas Clarkson (1760-1846) formed the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, supported by the Quaker movement and prominent figures such as Josiah Wedgwood. The two men came to their position against slavery from different backgrounds; Sharp from his instigation of a legal case to free Jonathan Strong, a slave who had been badly beaten by his master and Clarkson from his theological studies at Cambridge. The latter underwent a 'revelation from God' ordering him to fight the trade. After this vision, Thomas Clarkson contacted Sharp, who had already begun his campaign, and joined to form the society. Clarkson was given the role of collecting evidence on the trade from the crew of slave ships and the horrifying equipment used, including branding irons, leg shackles, handcuffs and thumb screws. This information, published in a pamphlet entitled 'A summary view of the Slave Trade and of the probable consequences of its abolition', aimed to sway public opinion.
This medal aimed to spread the same message, to grow support for the anti-slavery movement by spreading its ideals. The figure of a kneeling, chained slave and the title 'am I not a man and a brother', is followed on the reverse with the legend 'whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them'. Although not explicitly connected to the society with their name, the Christian message on the medal reflected their conviction that all men were equal; however, slavery persisted in British protectorates until 1833.
L. Brown, A catalogue of British histori, 3 vols (London, Seaby, 1980-95)