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Olaudah Equiano (c.1745-1797): The Former Slave, Seaman & Writer. Olaudah Equiano, was a former enslaved African, seaman and …

Olaudah Equiano, b. 1745. The Interesting Narrative of …

Slave trade as root to African Crisis

Slave trade: a root of contemporary African Crisis
Equiano's journey begins when he is kidnapped from his village with his sister, from whom he is eventually separated. He describes a long voyage through various African regions, marked by brief tenures as a slave to "a chieftain, in a very pleasant country" and a wealthy widow who resides in "a town called Tinmah, in the most beautiful country I had yet seen in Africa" (pp. , ). Ultimately, Equiano is sold back to traders who bring him "sometimes by land, sometimes by water, through different countries and various nations, till . . . [he] arrive[s] at the sea coast" (p. ). Equiano is sold to the owner of a slave ship bound for the West Indies, and he goes on to describe the "Middle Passage"—"the journey across the Atlantic Ocean that brought enslaved Africans to North America. His descriptions of extreme hardships and desperate conditions are punctuated by his astonishment at new sights and experiences. The narration occasionally reflects the childish wonder of the young Equiano at the time of his journey, but it also highlights his culture shock at his introduction to European culture and European treatment of slaves.

The African Slave Trade and the Middle Passage - PBS

Olaudah Equiano (c.1745-1797): The Former Slave, Seaman & Writer. Olaudah Equiano, was a former enslaved African, seaman and merchant who wrote an autobiography depicting the horrors of slavery and lobbied Parliament for its abolition.
He returned to London and worked as a servant for a while, before finding employment with the Sierra Leone resettlement project, which was set up to provide a safe place for freed Slaves to live and work. He also formed the ‘Sons of Africa', a group which campaigned for abolition through public speaking, letter writing and lobbying parliament. In 1788, Olaudah Equiano led a delegation to the House of Commons to support William Dolben's bill to improve conditions on slave ships, by limiting the number of enslaved Africans that ships could carry.

 

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Olaudah Equiano, was a former enslaved African, seaman and merchant who wrote an autobiography depicting the horrors of slavery and lobbied Parliament for its abolition.


Olaudah Equiano was born in 1745 in Eboe, in what is now Nigeria. When he was about eleven, Equiano was kidnapped and sold to slave traders headed to the West Indies. Though he spent a brief period in the state of Virginia, much of Equiano's time in slavery was spent serving the captains of slave ships and British navy vessels. One of his masters, Henry Pascal, the captain of a British trading vessel, gave Equiano the name Gustavas Vassa, which he used throughout his life, though he published his autobiography under his African name. In service to Captain Pascal and subsequent merchant masters, Equiano traveled extensively, visiting England, Holland, Scotland, Gibraltar, Nova Scotia, the Caribbean, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and South Carolina. He was purchased in 1763 by Robert King, a Quaker merchant from Philadelphia, for whom he served as a clerk. He also worked on King's trading sloops. Equiano, who was allowed to engage in his own minor trade exchanges, was able to save enough money to purchase his freedom in 1766. He settled in England in 1767, attending school and working as an assistant to scientist Dr. Charles Irving. Equiano continued to travel, making several voyages aboard trading vessels to Turkey, Portugal, Italy, Jamaica, Grenada, and North America. In 1773 he accompanied Irving on a polar expedition in search of a northeast passage from Europe to Asia. Equiano published his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, in 1789 as a two-volume work. It went through one American and eight British editions during his lifetime. Following the publication of his Interesting Narrative, Equiano traveled throughout Great Britain as an abolitionist and author. He married Susanna Cullen in 1792, with whom he had two daughters. Equiano died in London in 1797.