I Am a Man!
"Am I not a man?"
Historically, in countries such as the United States and South Africa, the term "boy" was used as a pejorative racist insult towards men of color and slaves, indicating their subservient social status of being less than men. In response, "Am I not a man and a brother?" became a catchphrase used by British and American abolitionists. In 1787, Josiah Wedgwood designed a medallion for the British anti-slavery campaign. He copied the original design from the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade as a cameo in black and white. It was widely reproduced and became a popular fashion statement promoting justice, humanity, and freedom.
The question "Am I not a man?" was brought up again during the Dred Scott decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1857. During the Civil Rights Movement at the Memphis sanitation strike in 1968, "I Am a Man!" signs were used to answer the same question. On trial for bringing his son back to Nebraska for burial, from a forced march to Oklahoma, in 1879 Ponca Chief Standing Bear spoke to Judge Dundy in his Omaha trial, "That hand is not the color of yours, but if I pierce it, I shall feel pain. If you pierce your hand, you also feel pain. The blood that will flow from mine will be the same color as yours. I am a man. God made us both." Standing Bear (and Native Americans) were granted habeas corpus meaning that they had status in the court and were indeed human beings.
"I Am a Man!" was a foundational reference in Derek DelGaudio's theater show "In & Of Itself." DelGaudio created 1,000 "I AM" cards, each with a different descriptor. Before each show, audience members were instructed, "Choose how you wish to be seen."
- The Elephant Man declares, "I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being! I ... am ... a ... man!"
- Andersen, Margaret L. (2008). Sociology With Infotrac: Understanding a Diverse Society. Thompson Learning. p. 61.
- Dabydeen, David (February 17, 2011). "The Black Figure in 18th-century Art". BBC News. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
- Am I Not a Man? by Mark L. Shurtleff. Reviewed by Robert Fleming. AALBC.
- "Memphis sanitation strike photo". teaching tolerance. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
- "I Am a Man": Chief Standing Bear's Journey for Justice, Joe Starita 2010.
- Ron Miles, "Ron Miles: I Am A Man", All About Jazz, October 27, 2017.
- Marc Myers, "Mining the Memphis Sound", The Wall Street Journal, June 17, 2011.
- Costa, Mike (2016-07-20). "Derek DelGaudio Is Turning Magic into an L.A. Phenomenon". Los Angeles Magazine. Retrieved 2019-09-23.