Thomas Clarkson – A Box of Goodies

Now that (some of you!) have got your hands on a copy of Thomas Clarkson: The Giant with One Idea, here is my promised ‘box of goodies’. For those of you who haven’t managed to get a copy yet, you can view an excerpt here.

First of all, some context. As Thomas Clarkson traveled around the UK sharing the evils of slavery, he took with him a large chest which became known as ‘Clarkson’s Box’. Inside he carried pieces of torture equipment used on slaves; diagrams of the crowded insides of slave ships; samples of alternate African trade options; and lastly, African artwork to convince the British that the Africans were not animals.

Now while I’m sure I could have a long discussion about whether or not people need to be able to produce beautiful art in order to be treated humanely, the point is: the box worked. The tangible examples of African civilization and White Western barbarity touched peoples’ hearts, and after that, their minds.

While writing Thomas Clarkson: The Giant with One Idea, I collected my own digital ‘box’. Below are artworks and objects I could not put in my biography, as sadly the written word isn’t always the best medium for these (I know, shocking…)

Firstly, this is a replica of Clarkson’s actual box:

and here:

And here is the famous ‘Wedgewood medallion’ worn by Abolitionists across England. Thomas’ was engraved on a carnelian.

It reads: “Am I not a man and a brother?”

Known as the ‘Brookes‘ diagram’, the drawing below also traveled in Clarkson’s Box. It depicts how many Africans were ‘legally’ allowed on a slave ship, and what this looked like from above. Of course, there were often many, many more. One French abolitionist created a wooden replica with tiny wooden men and women to shock guests into action.

When the famous impressionist painter W. M. Turner heard the story of the Zhong ship and the hundreds of slaves thrown overboard in order to claim insurance, he reacted by creating The Slave Ship:

I do not think it’s a coincidence that all the fish eating the Africans are white…

Christian poet William Cowper also used his talents to protest, writing a moving poem which below has been transformed into a children’s book.

He has a point. While the Africans may have been slaves to white westerners, the slave owners were themselves slaves to gold, to greed, to godlessness. The difference, of course, is that the Africans had no choice.

And lastly, a more recent tribute to the abolition movement, Thomas Clarkson, and his God:

Not sure where to get a copy?

Koorong | Booktopia | Reformers’ Bookshop | Amazon (and Amazon Kindle) | Bookdepository


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