Barbarities in the West Indies by James Gillray (1756-1815) depicts an infamous incident described during William Wilberforce’s motion for the abolition of the Maafa trafficking (slave trade) in 1791.

“Among numberless other acts of cruelty daily practised, an English negro driver, because a young negro through sickness was unable to work, threw him into a copper of boiling sugar juice, and after keeping him steeped over head and ears for above three quarters of an hour in the boiling liquid whipt him with such severity, that it was near six months before he recover’d of his wounds and scalding.”

In the picture, a selection of rodents and the body parts of black people are nailed, on the wall behind, thus suggesting they were treated like vermin. Gillray executed a number of prints with pro-abolition themes, including ‘Anti-Saccharrites, – or – John Bull and his family living off the use of sugar’ (1792).

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