Portraits & Illustrations of Individuals

  • Sugar Cane Worker, Cuba, 1853

    Merely captioned A Field Negro, this sketch accompanies an article, Three Weeks in Cuba, by an artist (pp. 161-175). Descriptions of the island's black population are racist and ethnocentric, the illustration here depicts that men work naked in the fields, except coarse linen pantaloons . . . . The whole race in Cuba are less intellectual in appearance than those of the United States where the African blood has a large portion of European alloy (p. 169).
  • Yarrow Mamout, 1822

    For biographical details on the subject of this painting, see image 1029. This little known painting was done by the American artist James Alexander Simpson, a sometime teacher of painting and drawing at Georgetown College. D.C. The Simpson portrait appears to have been painted from life and is not a copy of the much better known 1819 portrait (done when Yarrow Mamout was about 83 years old) by the celebrated American painter, Charles Willson Peale (see image I029 on this website). The Simpson painting was done in 1822, about a year before the subject's death. In this portrait, Mamout seems to be wearing the same clothing, aside from the leather coat, as in the Peale painting. Moreover, he is holding a pipe which appears to be of West African origin or design; such pipes had short stems and a reed or wood tube was inserted into the hole at the pipe's stem in order to lengthen the stem. The most comprehensive account of Yarrow Mamout's life (and that of his descendants) is in James H. Johnston, From Slave Ship to Harvard: Yarrow Mamout and the history of an African American family (Fordham University Press, 2012); the Peale and Simpson portraits are discussed in detail on pp. 80-100. We thank Johnston for drawing our attention to the Simpson portrait and for sharing his research on Yarrow Mamout, and to Jerry McCoy, Archivist/Librarian, Georgetown Branch Library, for providing a digital copy of the painting.
  • Olaudah Equiano/Gustavas Vassa, 1789

    Engraving. Frontispiece from first edition of Equiano's Narrative. Equiano, an Igbo from present-day eastern Nigeria, was kidnapped from his natal village. In 1757, at about the age of 11 or 12, he was transported from the Bight of Biafra to Barbados, where he briefly stayed--unsold-- and then was taken to Virginia where he remained about a month. His new master, a British Naval officer, took him to London and gave him the name Gustavas Vassa, a name he apparently preferred in later life. When in his mid-forties, he wrote his narrative to arouse in Britain's Parliament a sense of compassion for the miseries which the slave-trade has entailed on my unfortunate countrymen. For the definitive modern edition of Equiano's Narrative, see Vincent Carretta, ed., The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings, Olaudah Equiano (Penguin Books, 1995, rev. ed, 2003). There is some debate among scholars if Equino was actually born in Africa. For more details on his life, see Vincent Carretta, Equiano The African (University of Georgia Press, 2005) and Paul E. Lovejoy, Olaudah Equiano or Gustavas Vassa-What's in a Name? (Atlantic Studies [vol. 9, 2012], pp. 165-184).
  • Yarrow Mamout, 1819

    Yarrow Mamout (or, Mahmoud or Muhammad Yaro) was born in Africa around 1736 and was a teenager when enslaved and brought to America in 1752. He was a Fulani and probably came from the Futa Jallon region in the eastern part of today's Senegal and Guinea. Brought to Annapolis, Maryland, as a slave, he was manumitted in 1796 and lived in the Georgetown section of Washington D.C. where he was well known. A devout Muslim and hard worker, he was able to accumulate money and a house. He lived the rest of his life in Georgetown, where he died in 1823 at the age of about 88. Charles Willson Peale, the celebrated American artist, painted this oil portrait in 1819 when Yarrow Mamout was about 83 (not well over 100, as Peale erroneously assumed). Another, less polished, portrait was done by James Alexander Simpson in 1822; it is held by the Georgetown Branch of the District of Columbia Public Library (see Image mamout on this website). The most comprehensive account of Yarrow Mamout's life (and that of his descendants) is in James H. Johnston, From Slave Ship to Harvard: Yarrow Mamout and the history of an African American family (Fordham University Press, 2012). A slide of this painting was provided for this website by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania which formerly had the painting; today it is held by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
  • Portrait of Rita, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1820-24

    Water color on paper titled Rita, a celebrated black beauty at Rio de Janeiro. Rita may have been a free woman of color. Augustus Earle, a widely travelled English painter, lived in Rio from early 1820 to early 1824, with occasional trips to Chile and Peru during that period.
  • Ellen Kraft, a Fugitive Slave, 1851

    The article accompanying this illustration describes how Ellen and William Craft were reared in Georgia, living near one another but with different owners. William is a black man, but his wife Ellen is nearly white. They were married and in 1848 they escaped with Ellen having cut off her hair and wearing green spectacles disguised herself as a young man, and her husband as her servant. They traveled to Savannah, then took a boat to Charleston (South Carolina) and from there went to Boston where William worked as a cabinet maker and Ellen as a seamstress. They supported themselves and learned how to read and write, but when the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 came into operation they were hunted. They managed to escape on a ship to New York, and from there took passage on a British ship which arrived in Liverpool about four months before this article was written (p. 316).
  • Enslaved Men, Brazil, 1816-1831

    Caption, Differentes Nations Negres; shows heads, faces, and hair styles of nine men. The engravings in this book were taken from drawings made by Debret during his residence in Brazil from 1816 to 1831. For watercolors by Debret of scenes in Brazil, some of which were incorporated into his Voyage Pittoresque, see Jean Baptiste Debret, Viagem Pitoresca e Historica ao Brasil (Editora Itatiaia Limitada, Editora da Universidade de Sao Paulo, 1989; a reprint of the 1954 Paris edition, edited by R. De Castro Maya).
  • Olaudah Equiano/Gustavas Vassa, 1791

    Portrait and title page, New York edition (one of several later editions of the first one that appeared in 1789) of Equiano's Narrative. For details, see image 1029 on this website.
  • William Unsah Sessarakoo, ca. 1749

    This engraved mezzotint, dated 1749, by John Faber Jr., a well-known English engraver, is from a portrait painted by Gabriel Mathias, identified as an eminent London painter by the Universal Magazine (London, 1748, vol. 3, p. 232). Both the painter and the engraver are identified on the lower borders of the engraving (not clearly visible on our website, but quite evident when examining the original engraving). We have no information how Mathias came to paint the portrait or when he painted it; or the present location of the painting. The engraving caption reads: William Unsah Sessarakoo, son of John Bannishee Corrantee, ohinnee of Anamaboe and of Eukobah, daughter of Ansah Sessarakoo, king of Aquamboo & niece to Quishadoo, king of Akroan. He was sold at Barbados as a slave in the year 1744. He was redeemed at the earnest request of his father in the year 1748 and brought to England. For details, including reference to a biography of Sessarakoo (The Royal African: or, Memoirs of the Young Prince of Annamaboe [London, 1749]), see Jerome S. Handler, Life Histories of Enslaved Africans in Barbados, Slavery & Abolition, vol. 19 (1998), p. 136n7. Another version of this engraving (see image reference gentmag on this website) was published in the Gentleman's Magazine, vol. 20 (June, 1750), facing p. 272, which refers to an earlier article in the magazine briefly reporting on Sessarakoo's life and visit to London (vol. 19 [February, 1749], pp. 89-90). The engraving was published in separate sheets and sold at 1 shilling, 6 pence each. The National Portrait Gallery (London) has two copies of this engraving (see NPG online data base). The Barbados Museum also has a copy; the image shown here is from a photographic copy of the Barbados Museum engraving, and was provided to Handler in October 1960 by the late Neville Connell, Director.
  • Enslaved Females, Brazil, 1816-1831

    Caption, esclaves negres, de differentes nations (black slaves from different nations/ethnicities). Shows upper torsos and faces of 16 women, their different hair styles and jewelry. The engravings in this book were taken from drawings made by Debret during his residence in Brazil from 1816 to 1831. For watercolors by Debret of scenes in Brazil, some of which were incorporated into his Voyage Pittoresque, see Jean Baptiste Debret, Viagem Pitoresca e Historica ao Brasil (Editora Itatiaia Limitada, Editora da Universidade de Sao Paulo, 1989; a reprint of the 1954 Paris edition, edited by R. De Castro Maya).
  • Phillis Wheatley, ca. 1773

    Copperplate engraving. Caption reads: Phillis Wheatley, Negro servant to Mr. John Wheatley, of Boston. Born in present-day Gambia around 1753, little is known of Wheatley's early life. When 7 or 8 years old, she was kidnapped and shipped from the Gambia to Boston. Her purchasers, John and Susanna Wheatley, named her Phillis after the name of the ship that brought her to Massachusetts. Living in their household as a servant, she was permitted to learn to read, and not long after began writing poetry. Her first published poem appeared in 1767 but was published in London largely because of racial prejudice in Boston. She left no account of her life in Africa or the middle passage, and her life ended sadly, at about the age of 31, in Boston in 1784. Her portrait was done when she was about 20 years old. For details on her life and works, see Vincent Carretta, Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genius in Bondage (University of Georgia Press, 2011); also, Phillis Wheatley: Complete Writings (Penguin Classics) (Penguin Putnam Inc., 2001).
  • Elizabeth Freeman (a.k.a. Mumbat, Mum Bet), 1811

    A miniature (approx. 2x3) framed watercolor of face and upper torso. Born around 1742, it is unclear if Freemen was African, or born in New York state of African parents. She was purchased when young and became a servant in a Massachusetts household. After an incident of maltreatment, she left her owner and enlisted the aid of a Massachusetts antislavery lawyer, Thomas Sedgwick. He helped her win her freedom in 1772. She died in 1829 and was buried in a segregated section of the Stockbridge, Mass. graveyard. Her portrait was painted by Susan Sedgwick, Thomas's daughter. For biographical details on Freeman's life, see Harriet Martineau, Retrospect of Western Travel (New York, 1838), vol. 2, pp. 104-10. (Slide of painting courtesy of the Massachsetts Historical Society.)
  • Job Ben Solomon (Ayuba Suleiman Diallo), 1750

    A Fulbe (Fulani) from the eastern region of present-day Senegal, Solomon (or, Ayuba Suleiman Diallo) was a Moslem and literate in Arabic. At around the age of 29, while on a trade mission (which included two slaves he intended to sell to the British), hundreds of miles from his homeland, he was captured, sold to an English slave-ship captain, and shipped from the Gambia to Annapolis, Maryland. There he worked on tobacco farms for about a year, went to England, and ultimately found employment with the Royal African Company in Gambia, where he died in 1773 at the age of around 72. For key references to accounts of Ben Solomon's life, see Jerome S. Handler, Survivors of the Middle Passage: Life Histories of Enslaved Africans in British America, Slavery & Abolition, vol. 23 (2002), p. 49, fn 5. Another engraving of him was published in the Gentleman's Magazine, vol. 20 (1750), facing p. 272. The engraving shown here is based on an oil painting done in 1733 by the British painter William Hoare (1701-1773). It is the earliest known British oil portrait of a person of African birth. The painting is owned by the Qatar Museums Authority which has loaned it to the National Portrait Gallery (London), where it will be on display for a five year period starting 20 January 2011. A color slide of the painting and other relevant details are on the website of the National Portrait Gallery, London (Thanks to Jan Marsh for bringing this painting to our attention).
  • Abdul Rahman (Rahaman), 1828

    Engraving of crayon drawing. A Muslim Fulbe (Fulani), Rahman was born in Timbuktu (present-day Mali) around 1762; as a child he moved to the Futa Jallon region in the present-day Republic of Guinea. Educated in Arabic and the Koran, in 1788/89, when around 26, he was captured during warfare and taken far from his homeland to the Gambia. Sold to the British, he was then taken to the Caribbean island of Dominica, where he briefly stayed, and from there to New Orleans, where he was sold to a cotton plantation near Natchez, Mississippi. Enslaved for about 40 years in the U.S., mostly in the Natchez area, he was manumitted in 1828, and traveled to various parts of the eastern U.S. on his way back to Africa. He ultimately reached Liberia, where he died in 1829. For details and references, see Jerome S. Handler, Survivors of the Middle Passage: Life Histories of Enslaved Africans in British America, Slavery & Abolition, vol. 23 (2002), pp. 25-56. Rahaman was one of the passengers aboard the ship Harriet, chartered by the American Colonization Society, which left Hampton Roads, Virginia, in February 1829, bound for Liberia. He must have died not long after arrival. Eight of his descendants migrated to Liberia in 1830, from Norfolk, Virginia, on another ship chartered by the AMS (Archibald Alexander, A History of Colonization on the Western Coast of Africa [Philadelphia, 1846], pp. 256-257, 347.
  • Omar Ibn Said (Sayyid), mid-19th cent.

    A daguerreotype photo held by Davidson College. A Moslem from the Futa Tora area of present-day Senegal, Omar Said was captured in warfare and shipped to Charleston, S.C. in 1806/07, just before the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. He spent about 24 years enslaved in South and North Carolina. He originally wrote his account in Arabic in 1831 (one of a handful of known accounts written by the African-born who were enslaved in British America/the U.S.) at around the age of 61; an English translation first appeared after his death in 1864. For various translations of Said's account and many details on his life in the context of Islam in America, see Ala Alryyes, ed, A Muslim American Slave: The Life of Omar Ibn Said (University of Wisconsin Press, 2011; cf. Jerome S. Handler, Survivors of the Middle Passage: Life Histories of Enslaved Africans in British America, Slavery & Abolition, vol. 23 (2002), pp. 25-56.
  • Olaudah Equiano or Ottobah Cugoano, late 18th cent.

    Oil portrait by unidentified painter, held by the Royal Albert Museum, Exeter (Devon, England). The Museum identifies the subject as Olaudah Equiano, although in fact he may be Ottobah Cugoano. For details, see Jerome S. Handler, Survivors of the Middle Passage: Life Histories of Enslaved Africans in British America, Slavery & Abolition, vol. 23 (2002), pp. 25-56. Slide of painting, courtesy of the Royal Albert Museum.
  • William Unsah Sessarakoo and Job ben Solomon, 1750

    See also images I028 (Sessarakoo) and I019 (ben Solomon) on this website.
  • Joseph Cinque, 1840

    This studio portrait was commissioned by Robert Purvis, a leading black abolitionist from Philadelphia; Jocelyn was an abolitionist sympathizer. Cinque is shown in a toga, rather than in traditional Mende clothing. His facial features seem to have been made less African than they actually appeared. For details on Cinque see, for example, John W. Barber, A History of the Amistad Captives (New Haven, Conn., 1840) and Mary Cable, Black Odyssey; the Case of the Slave Ship Amistad (New York, 1971). For details on this painting, see Eleanor Alexander, A Portrait of Cinque (Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin, 49 [1984], pp. 31-51)and M. Harris, Colored Pictures (Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2003), pp. 34-36. A slide of the image shown here was made from an unidentified secondary source; for a better reproduction, see Harris (above) and Hugh Honour, The Image of the Black in Western Art (Menil Foundation, Harvard University Press, 1989), vol. 4, pt. 1, p. 158, fig. 96.
  • Joseph Cinque (Cinquez), 1840

    Side view of faces of Cinque and Grabeau (participants in Amistad revolt). Text gives physical description of Cinque and biographical details on both; also includes small map of West Africa showing their area of origin.
  • Joseph Cinque (Cinquez), 1839

    Joseph Cinquez, the brave Congolese chief; facial view, with text underneath giving biographical and other details on Amistad revolt, including a quote from Cinquez's sober and moving speech to his comrades on board ship after the mutiny. According to the Library of Congress, this print was commissioned by the publisher of the New York Sun and advertised for sale in the newspaper's account of the capture of the Amistad, published on 31 August 1839.
  • Portrait of John Brown, 1855

    John Brown was born in Southampton County, Virginia, in the early 19th century and, as a child, was taken to Georgia from where he ultimately escaped; he made his way to Canada and from there to England where he died (in London) in 1876. His life story, told when he was in his late 30s or early 40s, was narrated to the secretary of the British Anti-Slavery Society.
  • Two Women with Head-Ties, Jamaica, 1808-1815

    Drawn from life by William Berryman, an English artist who lived in Jamaica in the early 19th century. This sketch shows the heads of two unidentified women who are wearing head-ties. Berryman produced about 300 pencil and watercolor drawings of people, landscape, settlements, and flora in the island's southern parishes, the general region surrounding Kingston. He had intended to produce a series of engravings, never realized because of his death (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs, An Illustrated Guide). Several other Berryman works are reproduced in T. Barringer, G. Forrester, and B. Martinez-Ruiz [and others], Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and his Worlds (New Haven: Yale Center for British Art in association with Yale University Press, 2007), passim.
  • Creole Men and Women, Jamaica, 1838

    The artist captions this lithograph Creole Negroes. The woman (upper left) represents a vender of sausages about the streets, and is selected as an example of the inconsistency frequently observable in the Negro-class, who, while they are engaged in the meanest occupation, are still attentive to the adornment of their person. The woman is shown with an elaborate head-tie, jewelry, and a small blue purse dangling from her waist. In the upper right, the man is wearing the ordinary costume of the field worker. His Kilmarnock cap, a coarse black hat is also worn; these added to a blue checked shirt, Oznaburgh trowsers, and contoon, or cloak made of dark blue woolen-cloth called Pennistone, complete the ordinary costume. The man on the lower left is also a field-Negro, shown with similar clothing. The older woman (lower right) wears a head-tie and has chew-stick (sometimes, chaw-stick). The pearly whiteness of teeth so universal with the Negroes, Belisario writes, is in a great measure produced by the constant use of a withe, called chew-stick, which they cut into small pieces, and employ as a tooth-brush . . . it has a bitter juice, of a powerfully detergent quality. For background on the artist, see Belisario01.
  • Gold Coast Men and Women, 17th cent.

    Shows hairstyles, facial decorations, jewelry. The original drawing is from the 1679 manuscript, located in the British Library (Robin Law, pers. comm.).
  • Mahommah G. Baquaqua, 1854

    Engraved portrait taken from a daguerrotype that appears on title page of Baquaqua's autobiography shown here. Baquaqua was born in 1824 or 1830 in northern part of present-day Benin, duped into slavery when in his late teens or early twenties, and from the vicinity of Quidah (Dahomey) was shipped to Brazil in the mid-1840s. He ultimately became free by jumping ship in New York City in 1847, travelled with Baptists to Haiti, and returned to the U.S. in late 1849. Robin Law and Paul Lovejoy, eds., have prepared an annotated edition of the 1854 publication which includes additional materials written by Baquaqua (The Biography of Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua: His Passage from Slavery to Freedom in Africa and America (Princeton, Markus Wiener, 2001). Another portrait of what appears to be a younger Baquaqua is published as a lithograph in A.T. Foss and E. Mathews, Facts for Baptist Churches (Utica, 1850), facing title page (copy located in Library Company of Philadelphia).
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