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Images of History: William Blake’s Europe Supported by Africa and America

William Blake’s engraving Europe Supported by Africa and America was created for the cover art for J. G. Stedman’s Narrative of a five years’ expedition, against the revolted Negros of Surinam, in Guiana, on the Wild Coast of South America; from the year 1772, to 1777 a travelogue and  published in 1792. The image itself personifies the continents of Europe, Africa and the Americas in the bodies of three young women.  The women are all nubile and seductive in their postures and gazes.  The original manuscript submitted by Stedman had a distinctly anti-slavery bent, and Blake’s engravings reflect the ideas of human equality and fraternity Stedman espoused (the publisher forced Stedman and Blake to edit the work to remove the violent depictions of the depravities of slavery and tone down their political agenda). The planning committee of 1619: The Making of America chose this iconic image to represent our panel on the representations of Native Americans because it is so widely recognized as an iconic image of British colonialism.  Blake’s images of the women as senusal and aloof, inviting and somehow apart highlights both the common bonds of womanhood and the dependance Europe quickly developed for its American and African colonies.  The rope held by the white woman that entraps the two other women is also a powerful symbol of the institution of slavery that bound all three continents together. When the conference planners first started creating the advertisements for the conference, this image on our posters stirred up a lot of controversy on campus.  What do you think about the image? Is it too provocative for an academic setting? Resources: Caroline Parkes, “Art as a Representation of Resistance” Slave Resistance: A Caribbean Study. http://scholar.library.miami.edu/slaves/representations/Individual_art_essays/carolines.htm