Members of the Society of Friends, informally known as Quakers, were among the earliest leaders of the abolitionist movement in Britain and the Americas. By the beginning of the American Revolution, Quakers had moved from viewing slavery as a matter of individual conscience, to seeing the abolition of slavery as a Christian duty, and when the Quaker-led Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade met in London in 1787, three of its members were charged with preparing a design for an official seal for the Society. The design was approved, and an engraved medallion was commissioned. It portrays a male figure, kneeling and bound in chains with the legend, "Am I Not a Man and a Brother." The reverse of the token bears the clasped hands of brotherhood and the legend, "May Slavery and Oppression Cease Throughout the World"
That same year, jasper ware cameos featuring the emblem were produced in England by Josiah Wedgwood, and in 1788, a consignment of the cameos was shipped to Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia, where they became a fashion statement for abolitionists and anti-slavery sympathizers. They were worn as bracelets and as hair ornaments, and even inlaid with gold as ornaments for snuff boxes. In 1792, the more affordable copper tokens were produced, and the fashion soon extended to the general public.
In 1837 the American Anti-Slavery Society in New York commissioned a New Jersey firm to issue copper tokens featuring a kneeling female slave with the legend " Am I Not a Woman and a Sister." Based on the earlier British design, this version substitutes a woman for the customary enslaved male. The appearance of the female icon in Britain and the United States symbolized not only a growing awareness of the special hardships that women suffered under slavery as victims of sexual exploitation but also recognition of the prominent role that women were playing in the anti-slavery movement.