Art of the Month

Tignon Law

By the 1700 The institution of slavery reached around the world. Captured Africans were not passive about the institution. They fought where they stood. In 1786 Governor Don Estevan Miro of New Orleans passed the Tignon Law that stated all Creole women of color must tie up their hair and dress as in the slave class whether they are slave or free. In trying to limit the standards of beauty to this section of the population, they shaped the way women of color would react for centuries.

Haiti Revolution

The Haitian Revolution was a successful insurrection by self-liberated slaves against French colonial rule in Saint-Domingue, now the sovereign state of Haiti. The revolt began on 22 August 1791, and ended in 1804 with the former colony’s independence.

Phillis Wheatley

(c. 1753 – December 5, 1784) was an American author who is considered the first African-American author of a published book of poetry. Born in West Africa, she was sold into slavery at the age of seven or eight and transported to North America, where she was bought by the Wheatley family of Boston. After she learned to read and write, they encouraged her poetry when they saw her talent.

Olaudah Equiano

Olaudah Equiano was the son of a chief of the Igbo people in West Africa, but was seized and sold into slavery as a small boy. He was sold a several times and purchased his freedom in 1766. He was part of an abolitionist group called the Sons of Africa made of Africans living in Britain. In his autobiography of 1789, he looked back on life in his homeland, remembering it as “a charming fruitful vale.” He was a writer and abolitionist.

Sommerset Case

James Sommersett was the subject of a landmark legal case in Great Britain, which was the first major step in imposing limits on Trans-Atlantic African slavery. Sommersett was originally purchased in Virginia and had been bought to Britain by Stewart from Boston, Massachusetts in 1769.  He fled two years later. Sommersett’s cause was taken up by Granville Sharp, a member of Parliament and the leading abolitionist of his era.

At issue was whether a slave, even if owned in British Colonial America was by dint of residing in Britain still to be legally regarded as chattel or should be considered free. Francis Hargrave argued that by being on the soil of Great Britain, Sommersett could not remain enslaved.  On June 22, 1772 Lord Mansfield decided in Somerset v. Stewart that Sommersett was to be released since no English law sanctioned slavery in Great Britain.

The case also moved the debate over slavery to the British Parliament. Britain’s highest legislative body ended the Empire’s participation in the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade in 1807.