Branding a Negress
This image shows two European men holding down and branding a black woman on the back. It is unclear if this illustration is intended to depict an activity on the African coast or in the New World. The image illustrates the account of Captain Canot (1804-1860), who was a French-Italian slave trader. Canot mostly traded between the Upper Guinea Coast and Cuba. With respect to branding, Canot/Conneau wrote in 1827 that “a few days before the embarkation takes place the head of every male and female are shaven. They are then marked. . . with a hot pipe sufficiently heated to blister the skin. Some [purchasers] use their initials made of silver wir. . . this disagreeable operation is done only when several persons ship slaves in one vessel. . . [The branding] is done as lightly as possible, and just enough for the mark to remain only six months; when and if well done, it leaves the skin as smooth as ever. This scorching sign is generally made on the fleshy part of the arm to adults, to children on the posterior.” The British military officer, John Duncan, described branding of enslaved captives in Dahomey in the mid-1840s. He explained how “the people were led onto the beach, before being placed aboard canoes that would take them to the waiting slave ships, and the gang on each [coffle] chain is in succession marched close to a fire previously kindled on the beach. Here marking-irons are heated, and when an iron is sufficiently hot, it is quickly dipped in palm-oil, in order to prevent its sticking to the flesh. It is then applied to the ribs or hip, and sometimes even to the breast. Each slave-dealer uses his own mark, so that when the vessel arrives at her destination, it is easily ascertained to whom those who died belonged” (see Travels in Western Africa in 1845 & 1846 (London, 1847; reprinted London, 1968), vol. I, p. 143). This image is also published in Henry Howe (ed.), Life and Death on the Ocean [Cincinnati, 1856], p.526); William O. Blake, The History of Slavery and the Slave Trade (Columbus, Ohio, 1857), facing p. 97. Another version of this image is shown on the website of the Mary Evans Picture Library (London), with an attribution to The Pictorial Times (London), 9 August 1845.See also image Blake1.
Brantz Mayer, Captain Canot; or, Twenty years an African slaver. . . (New York, 1854), facing p. 102.
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"Branding a Negress", Slavery Images: A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora, accessed April 5, 2020, http://www.slaveryimages.org/s/slaveryimages/item/1915