Enslaved Africans Loaded onto Slave Ship, 1861

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This record was last updated on 23 May 2012

Image Reference

L’Illustration: Journal Universel (Paris), vol. 37 (1861, pt. 1), p. 345.

Captioned, “Emménagement d’esclaves à bord d’un négrier, par M. Biard” (Loading Slaves onto a Slave Ship), this engraving shows a method of loading captive Africans into the hold of a slaving ship. It is very unlikely that this scene was directly observed by the artist who created the original image, and the image itself probably conveys his imaginative impression rather than an actual scene on board a slave ship. By 1861 the slave trade had all but ceased, the slave ships were much larger than in earlier years, and the space between the decks was much lower than what is shown in this image; in short, this scene appears to have been contrived. François-Auguste Biard, was a French painter who went to Brazil in 1858 and lived there for about two years. His published account of his sojourn in Brasil (Deux Années au Brésil [Paris, 1862]) contains a number of images of slave life, several of which are included on this website, but does not include the image shown here which apparently appeared in L’Illustration for the first time. It is based on a painting Biard exhibited in the (Paris) Salon of 1861. Moreover, there is no biographical evidence that Biard ever observed how slave ships were loaded. Commenting on the publication of this image, the editor of L’illustration points out how it makes the readers of the magazine aware of the “atrocities of the slave trade and of slavery,” but nothing is said about whether Biard actually viewed the scene depicted here (p. 346). (Thanks to Ana-Lucia Araujo for her help.)