Black and White Slaves

Black and White Slaves

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This lithograph, designed by Edward William Clay, a Northern apologist for slavery, contrasts an idealized scene of seemingly content slaves in America with that of a family of forlorn factory workers in England. In the left “America” panel, a well-dressed slave-holder is depicted with his wife, children, and greyhound. The plantation-owner’s son gestures towards two elderly slaves, who thank their master for providing for them. The white man, in turn, responds that as a long as “a dollar is left me, nothing shall be spared to increase their comfort and happiness.” In the background, a group of slaves is shown smiling and dancing to fiddle music. The circumstances of the black slaves were meant to be interpreted as more favorable than the conditions of life for “white slaves” in England, depicted in the right panel. Here, a starving, unemployed factory worker sits with his malnourished, sickly family, as a man in a top hat instructs him to enter a workhouse.
Edward Williams Clay was born in Philadelphia in 1799. He originally found employment as an attorney and became a member of the Philadelphia Bar Association in 1825, but he later abandoned law for a career in art. He moved to New York City in 1837 but shortly after was forced to end his artistic career when his eyesight began to fail. The publisher of the work, Arthur Donnelly, maintained a shop at 19 ½ Courtland Street, New York.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
Date made
date made
Donnelly, A.
Clay, Edward Williams
place made
United States: New York, New York City
Physical Description
ink (overall material)
paper (overall material)
image: 12 3/8 in x 19 in; 31.4325 cm x 48.26 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Lithography Collection
Chronology: 1840-1849
Political Caricatures
Civil War
Civil War
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Cultural and Community Life: Domestic Life
Domestic Furnishings
American Civil War Prints
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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