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Sugar Bowl and Cover

Artist/maker unknown, English

This sugar bowl features the image of a kneeling Black woman in chains set against a tropical landscape. The decorative bowl illustrates what English abolitionist William Fox wrote in his 1791 pamphlet An Address to the People of Great Britain on the Propriety of Abstaining from West India Sugar & Rum, "that in every pound of sugar used. . . we may be considered as consuming two ounces of human flesh." The bone china piece was either manufactured in the 1820s when abolitionists boycotted sugar cultivated by enslaved people, or the 1830s when women on both sides of the Atlantic began holding prominent roles in the abolition movement and popularized this iconography—a female counterpart to an emblem first mobilized by English potter Josiah Wedgwood.

The image of the kneeling bound Black person became popular among abolitionists. However, the figure’s supplicant position and nakedness problematically uphold racial hierarchies by presenting enslaved Black people as inferior, child-like beings in need of the care and protection of a "benevolent white savior." In reality, Black women, children, and men actively advocated for emancipation and sought their own freedom in flight, everyday acts of resistance, and outright revolt.

Object Details

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