Legacies of transatlantic slavery: racism in Manchester

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Do you know what these objects are, and what the connection was between them?

Click on the images below to find out more

Robertson's golliwogs, 1960s, Gallery Oldham

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The golliwog was a popular childhood toy across Europe and the USA. It originated in a children’s story book, The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls, written by American author Florence Kate Upton in 1895.

In the story, two dolls are let loose in a toy shop where they meet Golliwog, ‘the blackest gnome’, dressed in red trousers, red bow tie and blue coat. He looked crude, with a black face, unruly hair, thick lips and wide eyes. Golliwog was, in fact, a caricature of the American minstrels – white men who blacked up to perform songs in a manner that mimicked enslaved Africans.

The golliwog quickly became a common character in children’s books, but changed from the original ugly but lovable creature of Upton's stories into a stereotyped villain, mean-spirited and devious.

The golliwog went on to appear on pencils, knitting patterns, playing cards, toys and ornaments.
The golliwog is probably best remembered in Britain as the brand logo for Robertson’s jams. It first appeared on product labels and advertising material in 1910 and was immediately hugely popular. After much criticism and campaigns to expose the racist history of the image, Robertson’s finally dropped the golliwog from its packaging in 2001.

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An interactive video drama on slavery and abolition

This Accursed Thing

James Watkins