CIRCUS AFRICANUS: PUNISHMENT ABOARD A SLAVE SHIP, 1792

The Abolition of the Slave Trade”. Engraved colored print by George Cruikshank. Originally published in London, April 10, 1792. (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, British Cartoon Collection, LC-USZ62-6204.)

“Engraved colored print by George Cruikshank, captioned, “The Abolition of the Slave Trade, Or the inhumanity of dealers in human flesh exemplified in Captn. Kimber’s treatment of a young Negro girl of 15 for her virjen [sic] modesty.” Shows John Kimber (left) with a whip in his hand, young African girl suspended by her ankle from a rope over a pulley. An anti-slave trade cartoon, reflecting an important incident in the British campaign against the slave trade. John Kimber was the captain of a slave ship, the “Recovery,” owned by Bristol merchants, which had left New Calabar bound for the West Indies in 1791. In a speech before the House of Commons in 1792, Wilberforce accused Kimber of having caused the death of the girl by inflicting injuries on her because she had refused to dance naked on the deck of his ship. As a result of Wilberforce’s speech, Kimber was arrested and tried before the High Court of Admiralty in 1792. He was ultimately acquitted, the jury having concluded that the girl had died of disease, and not maltreatment. See Peter Marshall, ‘The Anti Slave Trade Movement in Bristol’, in Patrick McGrath (ed.), Bristol in the Eighteenth Century (Newton Abbot, 1972), pp.206-207; cf. Madge Dresser, Slavery Obscured: The Social History of the Slave Trade in an English Provincial Port (London: Continuum, 2001), p.163 (thanks to David Richardson for these references and to David Eltis for identification of Kimber’s ship).”

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