Slavery Images

The Image As Testimony Of The Unspeakable

Through a comprehensive selection and growing from historical and artistic images, the archives of allow us a look into the daily life and cruel reality of African slaves in the Americas.

The first deputy of African origin in France was Jean-Baptiste Belley, born in Senegal and enslaved in Gorée at the age of two. In this painting he appears casual, dressed as a member of the National Convention after the triumph of the French Revolution. The bust on which he rests his elbow is of the philosopher Guillaume Thomas Raynal, an abolitionist like other leading figures from the French school of enlightenment. However, contemporary French-Catalan philosopher Louis Sala-Molins (in his book Dark Side of the Light: Slavery and the French Enlightenment, 2006) rightly accuses them of being accomplices of the transatlantic trade in the French overseas colonies.

In 1984, architect Jean Boudriot made this drawing of the positions in which African slaves likely traveled aboard the French ship Aurora. The drawing is a visual interpretation based on calculations of the loading declarations for the ship from Nantes, which in 1784, transported approximately 600 men, women and children from the Kingdom of Loango (now Angola) to Santo Domingo. Boudriot’s drawing is not simply a plastic abstraction; the demographics of slave trade in America has been calculated based on measurements of this kind.