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, or Gustavus Vassa, the African

    This engraving shows the face and torso of Gustavus Vassa (c. 1745–1797), or Olaudah Equiano, holding a book. He was an abolitionist writer who claimed to be born in the Igbo-speaking area of the Bight of Biafra region. Kidnapped from his natal village in 1757 at about the age of 11 or 12, he was then transported to Barbados, where he briefly stayed - unsold - until he 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 preferred later in life. When in his mid-40s, 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." There is some debate among scholars if Vassa was actually born in Africa. See Vincent Carretta, ed., The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings, Olaudah Equiano (Penguin Books, 1995, rev. ed, 2003); and Paul E. Lovejoy, "Olaudah Equiano or Gustavas Vassa-What's in a Name?" Atlantic Studies 9 (2012), p. 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

    This engraved portrait shows the head and upper torso of William Ansah Sessarakoo (c. 1736–1770), who was Fante and born in Anomabu in the Voltaic region. His father, John Correntee, was the head of local government. He was enslaved and taken to Barbados. The engraving caption described how “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.” John Faber Jr. (1684–1756) was a Dutch portrait engraver born in The Hague, who lived and worked in London. Faber concentrated on mezzotints. This engraving, dated 1749, derived from a painting by Gabriel Mathias, who was an eminent London painter. Both the painter and the engraver were identified on the lower borders of the image (which are not clearly visible on the version displayed herein, but quite evident when examining the original engraving). There is no information how or when Mathias painted the portrait; or the present location of the painting.
  • Esclaves nègres, de differéntes nations

    "Enslaved Negros, from Different Nations" (caption translation). This illustration shows profiles, upper torsos, hairstyles and jewelry for sixteen different enslaved women representing the diversity of African heritage in Brazil. Jean-Baptiste Debret (1768–1848) was a French painter, who produced lithographs depicting people during his residence in Brazil from 1816 to 1831. The Portuguese court commissioned Debret to paint their portraits, but he took a particular interest painting enslaved Africans and indigenous peoples. See also Jean Baptiste Debret, Viagem Pitoresca e Historica ao Brasil ([Paris, 1854]; Editora da Universidade de Sao Paulo, 1989).
  • Phillis Wheatley, Negro Servant to Mr. John Wheatley, of Boston

    This copperplate engraving shows the profile of Phillis Wheatley (c.1753–1784), while she is writing in a book. She was the first African-American woman to publish a book of poetry. Born in the Senegambia region around 1753 she was kidnapped at 7 or 8 years old and taken 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

    This miniature watercolor (3.5 cm x 5.5 cm) shows the face and upper torso of Elizabeth Freeman (c.1744-1829), also known as Bet or Mama Bet. It remains 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. She was the first enslaved African American to file and win a freedom suit in Massachusetts in 1781. The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling, in Freeman's favor, found slavery to be inconsistent with the 1780 Massachusetts State Constitution. She died in 1829 and was buried in a segregated section of the Stockbridge, Massachusetts 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.
  • Job, Son of Solliman Dgiallo, High Priest of Bonda in the Country of Foota, Africa

    Job Ben Solomon (c. 1701—1773), also known as Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, was Muslim, literate in Arabic and slave owner. He was Muslim, literate in Arabic and a slave owner. He was Fulbe (or Fulani, Peule) and born in Bundu in the Fuuta Jallon in the Senegambia region. On a trade mission hundreds of miles from his homeland to sell two enslaved people to the British, he was captured, sold to an English captain and shipped from the Gambia River to Annapolis, Maryland, where he worked on tobacco farms for about a year. After, he went to England and ultimately found employment with the Royal African Company in Gambia, where he died in 1773 at about 72 years old. 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 currently owned by the Qatar Museums Authority, but housed at the National Portrait Gallery, London. 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. See also image gentmag in this website.
  • Facsimile of the Moorish Prince's Writing

    This engraving of a crayon drawing shows Abdul-Rahman ibn Ibrahima Sori (1762–1829), who was an Fulbe (or Fulani, Peule) emir was born and educated in Timbuktu in the Western Savanna region, but was enslaved in the Fuuta Jallon area of the Senegambia region. Sold to the British, he was then taken to the Caribbean island of Dominica, where he briefly stayed until he went to New Orleans, where he was resold to a cotton plantation near Natchez, Mississippi. Upon learning of his noble lineage, his slave master, Thomas Foster, began referring to him as "Prince," a title he kept until his final days. After spending 40 years in slavery, he was freed in 1828 by order of U.S. President John Quincy Adams and Secretary of State Henry Clay after the Sultan of Morocco requested his release. He ultimately reached Liberia, where he died in 1829 and eight of his descendants born in the Americas migrated to Liberia in 1830 from Norfolk, Virginia, on a ship chartered by the American Missionary Society. See Archibald Alexander, A History of Colonization on the Western Coast of Africa (Philadelphia, 1846), p. 256-257, 347.
  • Untitled Image (Omar Ibn Said)

    Omar ibn Said (1770–1864) was an Islamic scholar and writer, who was born and educated in the Fuutu Toro area in the Senegambia region. He was transported to the United States in 1807 where he was enslaved for the remainder of his life in North and South Carolina. He wrote history, theology and an autobiography. 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.
  • Unidentified Image (Olaudah Equiano or Ottobah Cugoano)

    The museum identifies the subject as Gustavus Vassa (c. 1745–1797), or Olaudah Equiano, who was an abolitionist writer who claimed to be born in the Bight of Biafra region. However, this portrait might also be John Stuart (c. 1757–c. 1791), also known as Ottobah Cugoano, who was also an abolitionist writer who was from the Voltaic region. 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.
  • Job, Son of Solliman Dgiallo, High Priest of Bonda in the Country of Foota, Africa; Willam Ansah Sessarakoo, Son of John Bannishee Corrantee Ohinnee, of Anamaboe

    The first portrait is of Job Ben Solomon (c. 1701—1773), also known as Ayuba Suleiman Diallo. He was Muslim, literate in Arabic and a slave owner. He was Fulbe (or Fulani, Peule) and born in Bundu in the Fuuta Jallon in the Senegambia region. On a trade mission hundreds of miles from his homeland to sell two enslaved people to the British, he was captured, sold to an English captain and shipped from the Gambia River to Annapolis, Maryland, where he worked on tobacco farms for about a year. After, he went to England and ultimately found employment with the Royal African Company in Gambia, where he died in 1773 at about 72 years old. The second portrait is of William Ansah Sessarakoo (c. 1736–1770) was Fante and born in Annamaboe in the Voltaic region. His father, John Correntee, was the head of Annamaboe's government. He was enslaved and taken to Barbados. See also images I019 for more information on Job Ben Solomon and I028 for William Ansah Sessarakoo.
  • Cinque, The Chief of the Amistad Captives

    Joseph Cinqué (ca. 1814–ca. 1879), also known as Sengbe Pieh, was Mende from the Upper Guinea Coast. He helped lead a revolt of many Africans on the Spanish slave ship, La Amistad. Robert Purvis, a leading black abolitionist from Philadelphia, commissioned this studio portrait. Jocelyn was an abolitionist sympathizer. Cinqué 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, Connecticut, 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), p. 31-51; and M. Harris, Colored Pictures (University of North Carolina Press, 2003), p. 34-36. A slide of the image shown here was made from an unidentified secondary source. See also 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.
  • Untitled Image (Portrait of Joseph Cinqué and Grabeau)

    This document provides a profile of two participants in La Amistad revolt; and a small map of the places from where these men originated in West Africa. Joseph Cinqué (ca. 1814–ca. 1879), also known as Sengbe Pieh, was Mende from the Upper Guinea Coast. He helped lead a revolt of many Africans on the Spanish slave ship, La Amistad. The accompanying text gives physical description and biographical details.
  • Joseph Cinquez, the brave Congolese Chief, who prefers death to slavery

    Joseph Cinqué (ca. 1814–ca. 1879), also known as Sengbe Pieh, was Mende from the Upper Guinea Coast. He helped lead a revolt of many Africans on the Spanish slave ship, La Amistad. This portrait included text which provided biographical information and other details on Amistad revolt, including a quote from Cinqué'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.
  • Untitled Image (Portrait of John Brown)

    This portrait of John Brown is part of frontispiece to the book. The caption is "From a Colodion by J. Dudman." Collodion is a flammable, syrupy solution of pyroxylin in ether and alcohol used to develop photographs early on. John Brown was born in Southampton County, Virginia, in the early nineteenth century. As a child, he was taken to Georgia from where he ultimately escaped. He made his way to Canada and from there he went 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.
  • Untitled Image (Portraits of Two Women, One Black and One Light-Skinned)

    This sketch, partially in watercolour, shows the heads of two unidentified women who are wearing head-ties. William Berryman was an English artist who lived in Jamaica for eight years between 1808 and 1816. He produced about 300 pencil drawings and watercolour of people, landscape, settlements, and flora in the island's southern parishes and the general region surrounding Kingston. Several other Berryman works are reproduced in T. Barringer, G. Forrester, B. Martinez-Ruiz, et al., 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).
  • Creole Negroes

    This lithograph shows four portraits of enslaved people. Belisario described how "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 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." Isaac Mendes Belisario (1795–1849) was a Jamaican artist of Jewish descent and active in Kingston Jamaica around British emancipation in 1833. The image shown here, as well as others of “John-Canoes,” was drawn from life by Belisario in 1836. This lithograph is one of twelve originally published in three parts, four plates at a time.
  • Untitled Image (Portraits from the Voltaic Region)

    This engraving shows six portraits including hairstyles, facial decorations and jewelry. Jean Barbot (1655-1712) was a French explorer and merchant. Employed by the Compagnie du Senegal, Barbot documented two voyages along the coast of West Africa, then across the Atlantic to the Caribbean in 1678-1679 and 1681-1682.
  • Mahommah G. Baquaqua

    This engraved portrait was taken from a daguerrotype that appears on title page of Baquaqua's autobiography. Baquaqua was born in 1824 or 1830 in Djougou in the northern Bight of Benin hinterland. He was duped into slavery when in his late teens or early twenties, and from the vicinity of Dahomey and Ouidah 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. In 1854, he moved to Canada. His autobiography was published the same year by the abolitionist, Samuel Downing Moore, in Detroit.
Advanced search