Monday, 6 April 2009

Olaudah Equiano

200th Post



Olaudah Equiano also known as Gustavus Vassa, was one of the most prominent people of African heritage (Igbo) involved in the British debate for the abolition of the slave trade. Despite his enslavement as a young man, he purchased his freedom and worked as a seaman, merchant, and explorer in South America, the Caribbean, the Arctic, the American colonies, and the United Kingdom.

Olaudah Equiano's early life began in the region of "Essaka" (in his spelling) near the River Niger, an Igbo-speaking region of modern day Nigeria. At the age of eleven, Equiano and his sister were stolen and threatened by fellow Africans and sold to slave owners. Equiano was sold to white slave traders and taken to the English colonies, specifically Virginia. In Virginia he was sold to a Royal Navy officer, Lieutenant Michael Pascal, who renamed him 'Gustavus Vassa' after the 16th-century Swedish king. Equiano travelled the oceans with Pascal for eight years, during which time he was baptised and learned to read and write.

Pascal then sold Equiano to a ship captain in London, who took him to Montserrat, where he was sold to the prominent merchant Robert King. While working as a deckhand, valet and barber for King, Equiano earned money by trading on the side. In only three years, he made enough money to buy his own freedom. Equiano then spent much of the next 20 years travelling the world, including trips to Turkey and the Arctic.

In 1786 in London, he became involved in the movement to abolish slavery. He was a prominent member of the 'Sons of Africa', a group of 12 black men who campaigned for abolition.

In 1789 he published his autobiography, 'The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African'. He travelled widely promoting the book, which became immensely popular, helped the abolitionist cause, and made Equiano a wealthy man. It is one of the earliest books published by a black African writer.

In 1792, Equiano married an Englishwoman, Susanna Cullen, and they had two daughters. Equiano died on 31 March 1797.

Books
The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings: Revised Edition (Penguin Classics)
The Kidnapped Prince: The Life of Olaudah Equiano
Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man
The Slave Boy - The Life of Olaudah Equiano


Source: Wiki, BBC History

1 comment:

Nna said...

That picture is not him, maybe you should use his book picture instead.