24 April 2007
‘Am I not a man and a brother?’, an online exhibition to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade, was launched this week by the Bodleian Library of African and Commonwealth Studies at Rhodes House. You can see it at http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/dept/scwmss/projects/abolition/. Some of the items are also on view in an exhibition at Rhodes House, South Parks Road, Oxford, until Friday 4 May.
The exhibition includes manuscripts and books from the Library, among them the manuscript journal of Rev. James Ramsay (1733-89), who wrote and worked against slavery after seeing for himself the conditions in a slave ship while a Royal Navy surgeon. He died 18 years before abolition was achieved.
There are also related artefacts from the collection of Franklin Smith, including a tobacco jar and a clay pipe bowl, both in the shape of a slave’s head, and the late 18th-century engraving (above) of a slave market in the West Indies, published by an anti-slave trade body. The inscription reads:
Fleecy looks and black complexion
Cannot forfeit Nature's claim
Skins may differ, but affection
Dwells in Black & White the same.
Some of the material in the exhibition, including part of James Ramsay's diary, is printed in The Slave Trade Debate: contemporary writings for and against, edited by John Pinfold and published by the Bodleian Library in March. John Pinfold has also written the introduction to The Memoirs of Captain Hugh Crow: the life and times of a slave trade captain, a first-hand account of one of the last legal journeys across the Atlantic of a slave-trading vessel.
Details of these and other Bodleian Library books at www.bodleianbookshop.co.uk
For more about Rhodes House, see http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/dept/rhodes/