Cannibals final (2)

Africans are more akin to animals to them and animals

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Africans are more akin to animals to them and animals would not, and could not revolt. This revolt challenged everything that Europeans knew, and while they could not deny that slavery was coming to an end, they could still hold fast to their ideas regarding their racial superiority. The portrait of Belley is an extremely interesting piece, and almost every piece of it contradicts another. Belley is dressed in the clothing of the French National convention, a demonstration of his status in the new French society, one of respect and leadership. The three- quarters pose that he is depicted in is typical of the monarchy and the aristocrats. In almost all other depictions of Africans from this time they are usually in chains, on their knees, or more likely both. The very notion that Belley was the single subject of a portrait is something worth considering when you could typically find Africans lurking around the edges of most other paintings from the time. These facts, Belley's singular representation, his regal apparel, and his aristocratic pose, are all compelling evidence of Europeans attempting to understand Africans as more that just slaves. That being said the portrait does more than enough to undercut its progressive message at the same time as it attempts to make it. While Belley's pose may be aristocratic he is slouching, which is a clear sign of disrespect and laziness. Furthermore, Belly is leaning on a bust of a French philosopher who argued for the abolition of slaves. This is a clear indication that Belley can not stand on his own. His ideals need to be justified by those of a learned, white, European scholar. By European thinking an African could never think of freedom all on his own he would need to be educated by a proper European scholar. Belley is also depicted as having a sloping forehead, which according to the beliefs of the time meant that he was of low intelligence.
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Finally, the noticeable bulge in his trousers further shows us the pervasiveness of European stereotypes. The artist did a wonderful job of portraying Belley as a gentleman on the surface, but the details of the portrait reveal his inability to accept that an African could be anything other than a savage. Casting off the shackles of slavery did nothing to change the opinion of Europeans, to them Africans were still an inferior race. In the Decree of the National Convention Abolishing Slavery in the Colonies 4 th February 1794 we are presented with what should be a scene of unqualified celebration and equality. This painting is meant to represent a momentous event when the disgusting practice of enslaving fellow humans was rightfully abolished. The painting does capture some of this energy and manages to convey it to the viewer. The courthouse is packed with people, both black and white, and they all seem to be overjoyed at the prospect of the abolition of slavery. An African man lifts a baby to hear the news, a woman weeps, and children pray. Perhaps the most interesting part of the picture is the depiction of a black man embracing a white man as a brother. In a time when
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  • Spring '12
  • KIM
  • Africans, slave revolt, Citizen Jean-Baptiste Belley

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