Posted: September 11th, 2023

Business management | Economics and Statistics | California Southern University

American History

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Historical image and its proper historical context in America

America, there was the expansion of slavery driven by inexpensive land, and this slavery led to political battles, which later was resolved by compromises. The Americans instead started stealing people from Africa to do their jobs. Although white American enslavement of Africans was abolished, the black people never healed for long periods of forced labour, which hindered the growth and development of democracy up to date (Da Silva, 2017). There was the provision of the historical image which demonstrated the abolishment of the slave trade. The idea was the Brookes slave ship which was displayed alongside the museum.

The Brookes ship is a symbol for the history and legacy of the slave trade as it creates the message and meaning of the image to the audience. This ship was designed in Plymouth in the year 1788 by the Plymouth chapter of the society. It was mainly created to campaign against the slave trade. The image was made available by the bookseller James Philip in 1997 and was widely produced later. In addition, the Brookes ship was used to reveal the visualization of the transatlantic slave trade and inspiration to the public. This experience is designed to understand the physical and provides the most memorable scenes of the bicentenary year. The aim of these was to give youths a chance to reflect on the horror of the middle passage and leave them with a long-lasting impression (May 2014). Although they created this image with good intentions, they faced some criticisms, like if it was suitable to produce the image. The Brookes ship also contains the power of artwork bought by the British Museum. Also, it was reworked by la bouche using petrol cans and artefacts, drawing attention to the legacy of the slave trade. The image displayed in the museum communicates to visitors the suffering of the middle passage and the violence of the transaction. Once it is revealed, it speaks for itself. The image is faced with complaints from African communities that it reduces the role of enslavement. African communities view the image from different perspectives, where some view it as offensive, and others remain straightforward depictions of the cruelty of the transatlantic trade. These ways in which the audience considers the image becomes a severe concern in the development of visual displays in museums and galleries. Due to this, they came up with different principles in assessing the image.

The Brookes ship is assessed on different principles such as the technology of vision, empathy, and a symbol of control. The historical context of the image is on how the image structure is viewed of the depiction of the slave ship. The observer is asked to understand the torture of the middle passage regarding how the image is depicted and the moral cause of the abolition of the slave trade. The idea is designed to elicit the support of the British enslavement of Africans. It gives the viewer an all-encompassing vision. It provides the position of power to the viewers. If designed for white British audiences, it facilitates the empowering of individuals to take an ethical stance and impression of righteousness and assumptions of management over others. The purpose is to create a mode of neutrality as it enables observers not to see themselves as participating in the trade, not examining their position in the role of the victim. It allows one to judge the immoral enslavement of the people of Africa. This technology of vision principle in the present-day displays the Brookes image in the museum with minimum contextual data. Also, the knowledge and experience of viewers must be considered. For example, Wallace (2007) described the popular memory of the transatlantic slave trade in Britain as focused on abolishment. He forgot the collaboration of the British in the business. In this respect, the British audience who were well informed of the 1807 abolition act accessed image as the one used by abolitionists.

The use of Brookes ship is an inspiration for a variety of public participation. The image requires the technology vision of control for the idea to be pervasive. In this point of view, those participating are absent. However, the image and trade are still remembered. Despite this, the picture remains a popular part of exhibitions. It evokes a sense of connection for the audience to the experience of the middle passage to make key in the generation of empathy for the enslaved. However, the creation of this empathy is not based on the occasion of the people though it conveys the pain and suffering of the human body to the audience (May 2014). The image connects the sense of empathy for its observers based on abstractly witnessing the suffering of others in terms of ship capacity rather than the experience. In this manner, the image is considered a symbol of control, and it portrays a particular way of viewing and remembering the slave trade and how they suffered cruelty. It reaffirms that the transatlantic slave trade was based on inequality and racism as the body of Africans were presented and white British audience was to pass the judgmental. It did not include the perspective of black Africa as the image portrays them as victims and suffering objects to be viewed by the audience.

In conclusion, the Brookes image cannot be explained away with traditional assumptions of its innate power. Its power is created through a network of societal factors which have placed representation above others. The idea is continued use. It portrays the unequal nature of management and presentation of British for those of Africa and discrimination of racism. The image located the viewer away from the responsibility of the slave trade and asked to take a moral stance on evil committed by others elsewhere. The observer is asked to examine the action of others, and the legacy of the slave trade is not accessed in the image. The image would be more appropriate for museums and galleries but not an essential part of Britain’s abolition of the slave trade. Therefore, the image cannot be relied on to speak for itself.


Da Silva, D. B. D. (2017). 
The Atlantic slave trade from West Central Africa, 1780–1867. Cambridge University Press.

May, S. J. (2014). 
Voyage of The Slave Ship: JMW Turner’s Masterpiece in Historical Context. McFarland.

Wallace, E. (2007) The British Slave Trade and Public Memory. New York. Columbia University Press.

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