DataViz History: The Slave-Ship Chart That Kindled The Abolitionist Movement, 1788

The Maaffa

Michael Sandberg's Data Visualization Blog

Life on the Brookes

In 1789, 7,000 copies of the print of the slave ship ‘Brookes’ were printed by the Quaker printer James Phillips. Showing sections of the ship and the inhumane way in which slaves were stowed, this drawing and variations on it became one of the most iconic and shocking images of the movement.

Brookes Ship

The diagram above, which visualizes an overcrowded slave ship, was an early example of graphic design that has the power of words. [SOURCE]

If you had to compile a list of the most important infographics in the history of western civilization, this cutaway chart of the 18th-century Brooks slave ship would rank right up there with Charles Minard’s flow map of the ill-fated Russian campaign of 1812 and pretty much anything by Ed Tufte.


Eye magazine has a fascinating account of how the drawing became a key visual weapon in the 18th- and 19th-century fight against slavery…

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