Legacies: stereotypes, racism and the civil rights movement


About 1800-1850
Painted wood

Object number 1919.3.HITW
Given by Councillor JW Thompson, 1919

See this object at Bolton Museum and Archive Service This object may not always be on display. Please check with the venue before visiting.


This painted wooden figure is an example of a 'blackamoor', a stylised depiction of a black African man that was a popular image in sculpture, jewellery and design during the period of the transatlantic slave trade and beyond.  Blackamoors are often incorporated within items of furniture, portrayed in the role of a servant carrying a table top or candle holder. They were also used as tobacconists' shop signs in the 1700s and 1800s.

This figure came from John Johnson’s tobacco shop, which stood in Bradshawgate in Bolton until the early 1830s. It was given to Bolton Museum by Councillor JW Thompson in 1919. He told the curator at the time that he had bought it about 15 years earlier, and was told when he bought it that it had been in use in the tobacconists shop for over 100 years.

The figure carries a 'plug', or bundle, of tobacco under his left arm, and wears a crown of tobacco leaves. His right arm is extended, beckoning passers-by into the shop.  It demonstrates how the link between enslaved Africans (who provided the labour on tobacco plantations) and the tobacco consumed by Europeans was translated into popular visual imagery.

This information was provided by curators at Bolton Museum and Archive Service.