Legacies: stereotypes, racism and the civil rights movement

Money box

Made in the United States of America, about 1900
Cast iron

Object number 2.73/38
Given by Saddleworth School, 1973

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Money box

These crude cast iron money boxes were made in the USA in the 1800s and 1900s and exported across Europe. A lever operates the hand, making it seem as if the figure is eating each coin. They were designed to look like servants, reflecting the fact that many black people worked in domestic service, long after slavery had ended.

Figures such as these exploited racial stereotypes prevalent in Europe and America, and were sometimes described as 'greedy nigger' money boxes. In order to justify the brutal enslavement of human beings, European society had to maintain racist ideologies. Europeans tried to demonstrate that Africans were savage and uncivilised so they could justify treating them inhumanely. Visual conventions developed that depicted African people crudely with exaggerated features. These types became so ingrained that they survived long after slavery was abolished. They helped to perpetuate racism and, in the USA, official segregation. Many of these stereotypes are still familiar today.

This information was provided by curators from Gallery Oldham.