by William Blake


“Engravings for J.G. Stedman, Narrative, of a five year’s expedition, against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, in Guinea, on the Wild Coast of South America; from the year 1772, to 1777. Published in London, 1796.”

“Going now to take my leave of Surinam, after all the horrors and cruelties with which I must have hurt both the eye and the heart of the reader, I will close with an emblematical picture of Europe supported by Africa and America, accompanied by an ardent wish that the friendly manner as they are represented, they may henceforth and to all eternity be the props of each other… We only differ in colour, but are certainly all created by the same hand.” [Capt. John Gabriel Stedman]

From the book, ‘Narrative, of a Five Years’ Expedition, Against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam’ by JG Stedman.



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  1. I noticed that the white woman(Europe) embraced the Indian woman(America) while avoiding all contact with the Black woman(Africa). It’s very symbolic of today’s white and nonblack people of color avoidance of Blacks and Africans. What are your thoughts?


  2. Ann,

    My mistake. The white woman just barely holding the Black woman’s hand while putting her hands on the American Indian woman.

    Sorry for errors.

    Stephanie B.

  3. Ann

    Stephanie, thanks for your comments.

    I put this engraving up for visitors to my site to offer their perceptions on what they think the picture means to them. Here are my thoughts:

    Europe, as a country was bereft of civilizing influences that were occurring in Africa, Asia, the Americas, and elsewhere. Much of what Europe learned and obtained through the centuries was what was gleaned as well as taken from Africa, America and many other non-white continents. Europeans who came into contact with the non-white peoples of the world sought only to destroy and conquer them, not to live in harmony with them.

    William Blake who painted this commissioned engraving, was a visionary. And being an abolitionist, he was a staunch opponent of slavery and all of its cruelties. The symbolic images of the painting to me represent thus:

    The bright gold bands (to me, the bands represent chains) on the arms of Africa and America are symbols of enslavement.

    With the left hand, Europe limply holds the rope that links the three continents, the right hand more rigorously grasps the hand of the African in sisterly equality. This was a dramatic innovation in the concept of the relationship between the continents, reflecting Blake’s abolitionist perspective. Blake believed that Europe should show more humanity to Africa and America, more sisterly love and an equal standing. That Europe failed miserably to live up to this ideal level of equality is an understatement. Iinstead of sisterly love to Africa and America, Europe did just the opposite. Strongly holding Africa’s hand, meant, to me, that Europe sought to keep Africa in perpetual slavery, never to be set free from it (the curse of Ham, a race of people destined to forever be ‘hewers of wood, and drawers of water’). That Europe was anything but “sisterly” with Africa was evident in the horrors of the Middle Passage, slavery in the New World, and the debasement of black African people as chattel—no better than an animal—in other words, human property to be accorded no feelings, rights or belief in their humanity. The native peoples of America fared no better than the African people. Their land which they considered as belonging to all people, was stolen from them and turned into profit for greedy Europeans. For the black Africans, greed came in the form of human bondage, a lifetime of inhumane servitude. Blake saw Europe as having a duty to do right towards both these two mighty continents, but, Europe did nothing that was in any way sisterly or humane.

    The interdependence shows through the linking of arms amongst the three women and the braid, which perhaps represents tobacco, and binds them together. Blake’s engraving promotes the image that without Africa and America, Europe is unsupported – therefore, Europe must question the mistreatment of Africa and America in this cycle, then, and now.

    In essence, all that Europe/America is it owes to Africa and America. It could not have become the super power it is without the way it used and parasited both Africa and America.

    The interdepence that came to occur between Europe, Africa and America came to be one of exploitation, slavery and genocide, instead of a co-existence between equals. Europe never questioned the destruction it caused to Africa nor the Americas, instead it blindly went on to consume and annihilate the civilizations, cultures and lives of Africa and America.


    -the body and physiognomy (color, biology, etc.), that led to the belief in the inferiority of different races
    -war, conquest, state and empire-formation
    -citizenship, civilization
    -sex and gender
    -blood, genealogy and reproduction (the ‘one drop rule’)


    -destruction of its peoples (genocide)
    -enslavement of its peoples (both America and Africa)
    -theft of lands, resources
    -spread of disease (syphillis and gonorrhea [from America to Africa, via Europe], smallpox, measles and tuberculosis [via Europe to Africa])
    -destruction of thousands of years of culture
    -mass warfare waged by weaponry (repeating rifle, Gatlin gun, revolver)
    -slavery, labor and economic systems: sugar plantations, rice plantations, manufacturing of chocolate and the production of rum during slavery

    That Europe sought to take, and take, and take, and give nothing positive in return is the remaining legacy that this country has with what it has done to black and native peoples.

    With all that it has taken, mainly by force, but, with all that it has taken and learned from Africa and America, Europe (AMERICA) would not be where it is today if not for the two continents the Europeans devastated for over 500 years.

    Europe (white Americans) in the end was the biggest beneficiary of what it took from Africa and America.

    Africa (black Americans) and America (Native Americans) were the biggest losers.

    And still are.

  4. kerm27

    I also think that the directions that their eyes gaze in represents, something. They’re all looking away from each other and not towards the viewer at all. And I did notice that their hair lengths are each different. I wonder if that means anything?

  5. Andrea V.

    Africa and America are looking almost disgruntled at someone who may be watching them, and America just looks down in shame. Also all three of them are nude, which in this case adds more embarrassment/ shame, figureitvely for their actions, whether they have been forced into slavery or have been responsible for such penetration of equality.

  6. john

    hot picture all i can say

  7. Pingback: The True Cost of Happiness: The Human Price of Attainable Luxury | Chocolate Class

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