An Emancipated Negro by Cruikshank, George, 1833
George Cruikshank was the son of Isaac Cruikshank, a maker of satirical prints, in whose workshop George was producing signed work by the age of seven. He went on to become a prolific producer of caricatures, political and social satires and literary illustrations.
The ‘golden age’ of satirical printmaking, dominated by James Gillray (1756-1815), Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) and Cruikshank (1792-1878), was between 1780 and 1830. This period coincided with the founding and development of the mass movements for the abolition of the slave trade and subsequent abolition of slavery within Britain’s West Indies colonies. Unsurprisingly, then, slavery and abolitionism were themes addressed by many print satirists whose work featured black people in a number of social and political contexts.
Self Portrait George Cruikshank
In this print Cruikshank appears to support the claims of the pro-slavery lobby, which argued that abolition of the slave trade would spell disaster for Britain’s West Indies colonies and for the enslaved African populations who worked the plantations and required the 'protection' of the colonisers. Cruikshank’s image of ‘An Emancipated Negro’ shows an emaciated, white-haired, black African man, chasing a winged insect along the beach, a dagger in his right hand, crying out ‘food!’. (source: http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O127371/print-an-emancipated-negro/)