Moses Brown: on Henry Moss, 1803

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In an essay titled "The Black Body Erotic and the Republican Body Politic, 1790-1820", historian John Saillant writes:

White men opposed to slavery seem to have been captive to the black man's body and to the physical likeness between black and white. In 1803, Rhode Island slaveholder turned abolitionist Moses Brown interpreted a black man with white marks on his skin as "evidence of the sameness of human nature and corresponding with the declaration of the Apostle, that, 'God hath made of one blood all nations of men.'" Brown found likeness to the "easy and agreeable" Henry Moss through the black man's body: "His back below his shoulders is mostly as white as white people of his age, as are parts of his breast and even his nipples. The white parts of his skin and especially his anus are so transparent as to show the vains [sic ] as distinct, as a white mans [sic ]."[1]


  1. Moses Brown Anti-Slavery Papers, 1803 folder, Rhode Island Historical Society. For Moses Brown and other Quaker opponents of slavery, see David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770-1828 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1975), 213-54. Quoted from John Saillant, Chapter Four: "The Black Body Erotic and the Republican Body Politic, 1790–1820", page 102, in Sentimental Men: Masculinity and the Politics of Affect in American Culture, ed by Mary Chapman and Glenn Hendler (Berkeley: Universitiy of California Press, 1999). John Saillant, "The Black Body Erotic and the Republican Body Politic, 1790-1820", Journal of the History of Sexuality Vol. 5, No. 3 (Jan., 1995), pp. 403-428. Published by: University of Texas Press. Stable URL: The quote from Moses Brown is on page 422 of this publication.

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