AMERICA by Edward Williams ClayPrint shows an idealized portrayal of American slavery and the conditions of blacks under this system in 1841. The (New York Public) Library’s impression of the print is a fragment–the left panel only–of a larger print entitled “Black and White Slavery,” which contrasts the plight of Britain’s abused “white slaves” (actually factory workers, portrayed in the right panel) and America’s “contented” black slaves.

Frank Weitenkampf, (13 April 1866 – 1962), was an American authority on engraving and chief of the art and print departments at the New York Public Library suggested that prints like these were published by Northern apologists for slavery. The work of one such apologist, E. W. Clay, displays a consistent lack of sympathy for blacks.

Here he shows an attractive and wealthy, slave-owning white family, including a husband, his wife, and their two children. The young daughter plays with a lean greyhound which stands before them. The son gestures toward an elderly black couple with a small child sitting at their feet. A group of happy slaves dance in the background.

The old slave says, “God Bless you massa! you feed and clothe us. When we are sick you nurse us, and when too old to work, you provide for us!”

The master vows piously, “These poor creatures are a sacred legacy from my ancestors and while a dollar is left me, nothing shall be spared to increase their comfort and happiness.”

Title: America / E.W.C.

Creator(s): Edward Williams Clay, 1799-1857 artist

Date Created/Published: [New York] : Publ. by A. Donnelly, no. 19 1/2 Courtland St., N.Y. circa 1841.

I am a former teacher, marketing representative, labor negotiator and small business owner. As a black man born and raised in New York City I learned how to survive in the "neighborhood" and in business. Hearing about and witnessing the trials, tribulations, hopes and fears of my extended family and the people in their lives helped mold my life. Helping others with their own life journeys is my goal.

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