Slave Tokens Are Funky Too!!!

Slave Tokens Are Funky Too!!!

There are several United States commemorative coins, medals and medallions that celebrate the lives and accomplishments of Black activists, athletes, educators, entertainers, inventors, leaders and patriots as well as seminal events and institutions in Black History. These coins, medals and medallions are a part of The Museum Of UnCut Funk Collection and are currently traveling to museums and cultural centers across the country as a part of our For The Love Of Money: Blacks On U.S. Currency exhibition. Anti-Slavery Tokens are also an important part of our collection and traveling exhibition.

1796 – Am I Not A Man And A Brother Anti-Slavery Token

Am I Not A Brother

Used by British abolitionists as a communication and propaganda device for stimulating discussion about slavery.

English copper anti-slavery halfpenny tokens, also known as Conder or 18th Century Provincial tokens, were commissioned by the Society For Effecting the Abolition Of The Slave Trade. This society was a Quaker organization that used a slightly different version of the chained African male slave image depicted on the anti-slavery token as their official seal.

The design of the anti-slavery token was based on a 1787 ceramic medallion produced by English potter, abolitionist and Society member Josiah Wedgwood.  This design also appeared on other products and anti-slavery propaganda.

Copper tokens were produced by private mints to alleviate a shortage of small denomination coinage.

The obverse design features a male slave manacled and in chains, kneeling on the ground, in supplication. The inscription reads: “AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER.”

The reverse design features two hands clasped in friendship. The inscription reads: “MAY SLAVERY & OPPRESSION CEASE THROUGHOUT THE WORLD.”

1838 – Am I Not A Woman & A Sister Anti-Slavery Token

Am I Not A Sister

Used by American abolitionists as a communication and propaganda device for stimulating discussion about slavery.

American copper hard times tokens were privately minted and used by merchants to make change during a recessionary period in the U.S.

The design of the U.S. anti-slavery hard times token was inspired by British ceramic medallions produced by Quaker and abolitionist Josiah Wedgwood. These anti-slavery medallions made their way to the U.S. through a commission by fellow Quaker Benjamin Franklin. This imagery was also used on British anti-slavery tokens.

The American anti-slavery token differed from it’s British counterpart in featuring a chained African female slave. Female imagery was selected due to the involvement of women in the abolitionist movement and the similarities to their fight for women’s rights.

This imagery is said to have been the inspiration for Sojourner Truth’s famous   “Ain’t I A Woman?” speech delivered at the 1851 Women’s Convention.  Sojourner Truth with her dialect changed the question to “Ain’t I a Woman”.

The obverse design features a chained African female slave, naked and kneeling, looking upward, hands clasped in front of her. The inscription reads: “AM I NOT A WOMAN AND A SISTER.”

The reverse design features a laurel wreath. The inscription reads: “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” “LIBERTY” and “1838.” Note: The “N” in the word “UNITED” is backwards.

Sojourner Truth“Ain’t I A Woman?” is the name given to a speech, delivered extemporaneously, by Sojourner Truth, (1797-1883), born Isabella Baumfree, a slave, in New York State. Some time after gaining her freedom in 1827, she became a well known anti-slavery speaker. Her speech, which became known as Ain’t I a Woman? was delivered at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio on May 29, 1851.

Truth argued that while American antebellum (pre-Civil War) culture often placed white women upon a pedestal and gave them certain privileges (most notably that of not working), this attitude was not extended to black women.

 

To see the Commemorative Coins in the Museum Of UnCut Funk Collection click here:

http://museumofuncutfunk.com/2011/10/04/black-coin-and-medals-collection/

To see the Commemorative Medals and Medallions in the Museum Of UnCut Funk Collection click here:

http://museumofuncutfunk.com/2011/10/04/black-coins-and-medals-collection-medals-and-medallions/

For more information on commemorative coins and medals you can read the three part series on African Americans On U.S. Coins written by Charles Morgan, Editor at CoinWeek.com and check out the podcast that the Museum Of UnCut Funk curators did with Charles Morgan on our website at the following links:

African Americans On U.S. Coins Part 1: Representation & Discovery

African Americans On U,S. Coins Part 2: Modern Commemoratives and Circulation Strikes

African Americans On U.S. Coins Part 3: Hidden in Plain Sight & Designs Considered

Podcast: UnCut Funk: African American Representation and Money

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