Narrative Of The Life Of Olaudah Equiano

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Narrative Of The Life Of Olaudah Equiano



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The Slave Narrative of Olaudah Equiano

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Pascal took Equiano with him when he returned to England and had him accompany him as a valet during the Seven Years' War with France — Also trained in seamanship, Equiano was expected to assist the ship's crew in times of battle; his duty was to haul gunpowder to the gun decks. Pascal favoured Equiano and sent him to his sister-in-law in Great Britain so that he could attend school and learn to read and write. Equiano converted to Christianity and was baptised at St Margaret's, Westminster , on 9 February , when he was described in the parish register as "a Black, born in Carolina, 12 years old". They had taken an interest in him and helped him to learn English.

Later, when Equiano's origins were questioned after his book was published, the Guerins testified to his lack of English when he first came to London. Robert King set Equiano to work on his shipping routes and in his stores. Equiano sold fruits, glass tumblers and other items between Georgia and the Caribbean islands. King allowed Equiano to buy his freedom, which he achieved in The merchant urged Equiano to stay on as a business partner.

However, Equiano found it dangerous and limiting to remain in the British colonies as a freedman. While loading a ship in Georgia, he was almost kidnapped back into enslavement. By about , Equiano had gone to England. He continued to work at sea, travelling sometimes as a deckhand based in England. Two years later, Irving recruited Equiano for a project on the Mosquito Coast in Central America, where he was to use his African background to help select slaves and manage them as labourers on sugar-cane plantations. Irving and Equiano had a working relationship and friendship for more than a decade, but the plantation venture failed. Equiano settled in London, where in the s he became involved in the abolitionist movement.

The movement to end the slave trade had been particularly strong among Quakers, but the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade was founded in as a non-denominational group, with Anglican members, in an attempt to influence parliament directly. Under the Test Act , only those prepared to receive the sacrament of the Lord's Supper according to the rites of the Church of England were permitted to serve as MPs. Equiano had been influenced by George Whitefield 's evangelism. As early as , Equiano informed abolitionists such as Granville Sharp about the slave trade; that year he was the first to tell Sharp about the Zong massacre , which was being tried in London as litigation for insurance claims. Equiano was befriended and supported by abolitionists, many of whom encouraged him to write and publish his life story.

He was supported financially in this effort by philanthropic abolitionists and religious benefactors. His lectures and preparation for the book were promoted by, among others, Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon. It is one of the earliest-known examples of published writing by an African writer to be widely read in England. By , it was a best seller and had been published in Russia, Germany, Holland and the United States.

It was the first influential slave narrative of what became a large literary genre. But Equiano's experience in slavery was quite different from that of most slaves; he did not participate in field work, he served his owners personally and went to sea, was taught to read and write, and worked in trading. Equiano's personal account of slavery, his journey of advancement, and his experiences as a black immigrant caused a sensation on publication. In his account, Equiano gives details about his hometown and the laws and customs of the Eboe people. After being captured as a boy, he described communities he passed through as a captive on his way to the coast.

His biography details his voyage on a slave ship and the brutality of slavery in the colonies of the West Indies , Virginia and Georgia. Equiano commented on the reduced rights that freed people of colour had in these same places, and they also faced risks of kidnapping and enslavement. Equiano embraced Christianity at the age of 14 and its importance to him is a recurring theme in his autobiography. He was baptised into the Church of England in ; he described himself in his autobiography as a "protestant of the church of England" but also flirted with Methodism.

Several events in Equiano's life led him to question his faith. He was distressed in by the kidnapping of his friend, a black cook named John Annis, who was taken forcibly off the British ship Anglicania on which they were both serving. Kirkpatrick had Annis transported to Saint Kitts , where he was punished severely [ why? With the aid of Granville Sharp , Equiano tried to get Annis released before he was shipped from England but was unsuccessful. He heard that Annis was not free from suffering until he died in slavery. In his account, Equiano also told of his settling in London. He married an English woman and lived with her in Soham , Cambridgeshire , where they had two daughters.

He became a leading abolitionist in the s, lecturing in numerous cities against the slave trade. Equiano records his and Granville Sharp 's central roles in the anti-slave trade movement, and their effort to publicise the Zong massacre , which became known in Reviewers have found that his book demonstrated the full and complex humanity of Africans as much as the inhumanity of slavery. The book was considered an exemplary work of English literature by a new African author.

Equiano did so well in sales that he achieved independence from his benefactors. He travelled throughout England, Scotland and Ireland promoting the book. He worked to improve economic, social and educational conditions in Africa. Specifically, he became involved in working in Sierra Leone , a colony founded in for freed slaves by Britain in West Africa. During the American Revolutionary War , Britain had recruited blacks to fight with it by offering freedom to those who left rebel masters.

In practice, it also freed women and children, and attracted thousands of slaves to its lines in New York City, which it occupied, and in the South, where its troops occupied Charleston, South Carolina. When British troops were evacuated at the end of the war, their officers also evacuated these American slaves. Britain refused to return the slaves, which the United States sought in peace negotiations. In , following the United States' gaining independence, Equiano became involved in helping the Black Poor of London, who were mostly those African-American slaves freed during and after the American Revolution by the British.

There were also some freed slaves from the Caribbean, and some who had been brought by their owners to England and freed later after the decision that Britain had no basis in common law for slavery. The black community numbered about 20, Many of the freedmen found it difficult to make new lives in London or Canada. The blacks from London were joined by more than 1, Black Loyalists who chose to leave Nova Scotia. They were aided by John Clarkson, younger brother of abolitionist Thomas Clarkson. Jamaican maroons , as well as slaves liberated from illegal slave-trading ships after Britain abolished the slave trade, also settled at Freetown in the early decades.

Equiano was dismissed from the new settlement after protesting against financial mismanagement and he returned to London. Equiano was a prominent figure in London and often served as a spokesman for the black community. He was one of the leading members of the Sons of Africa , a small abolitionist group composed of free Africans in London. They were closely allied with the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Equiano's comments on issues were published in newspapers such as the Public Advertiser and the Morning Chronicle. He replied to James Tobin in , in the Public Advertiser , attacking two of his pamphlets and a related book from by Gordon Turnbull.

Equiano was an active member of the radical working-class London Corresponding Society , which campaigned to extend the vote to working men. In he lodged with the society's founder Thomas Hardy. At this time, due to the excesses of the French Revolution , British society was tense because of fears of revolution. Reformers were considered more suspect than in other periods. He included his marriage in every edition of his autobiography from onwards.

The couple settled in the area and had two daughters, Anna Maria — and Joanna — who were baptised at Soham church. Susannah died in February , aged 34, and Equiano died a year after that on 31 March He drew up his will on 28 May At the time he made this will he was living at the Plaisterers' Hall , [35] then on Addle Street, in Aldermanbury in the City of London. At his death on 31 March , he was living in Paddington Street , Westminster. Equiano was buried at Whitefield's Tabernacle on 6 April. The small burial ground lay either side of the chapel and is now Whitfield Gardens. Equiano's will, in the event of his daughters' deaths before reaching the age of 21 , bequeathed half his wealth to the Sierra Leone Company for a school in Sierra Leone, and half to the London Missionary Society.

Following publication in of a newly edited version of his memoir by Paul Edwards , interest in Equiano revived. Scholars from Nigeria have also begun studying him. He was valued as a pioneer in asserting "the dignity of African life in the white society of his time". In researching his life, some scholars since the late 20th century have disputed Equiano's account of his origins. In , Vincent Carretta, a professor of English editing a new version of Equiano's memoir, found two records that led him to question the former slave's account of being born in Africa. He first published his findings in the journal Slavery and Abolition. Carretta wrote:. Equiano was certainly African by descent.

The circumstantial evidence that Equiano was also African-American by birth and African-British by choice is compelling but not absolutely conclusive. Although the circumstantial evidence is not equivalent to proof, anyone dealing with Equiano's life and art must consider it. But Paul Lovejoy , Alexander X. Byrd and Douglas Chambers note how many general and specific details Carretta can document from sources that related to the slave trade in the s as described by Equiano, including the voyages from Africa to Virginia, sale to Pascal in , and others.

They conclude he was more likely telling what he understood as fact, rather than creating a fictional account; his work is shaped as an autobiography. Lovejoy uses the name of Vassa in his article, since that was what the man used throughout his life, in "his baptism, his naval records, marriage certificate and will". Other historians also argue that the fact that many parts of Equiano's account can be proven lends weight to accepting his account of African birth. As historian Adam Hochschild has written:. In the long and fascinating history of autobiographies that distort or exaggerate the truth.

Seldom is one crucial portion of a memoir totally fabricated and the remainder scrupulously accurate; among autobiographers He also noted that "since the 'rediscovery' of Vassa's account in the s, scholars have valued it as the most extensive account of an eighteenth-century slave's life and the difficult passage from slavery to freedom". Numerous works about Equiano have been produced for and since the bicentenary of Britain's abolition of the slave trade:. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Olaudah Equiano. Equiano by Daniel Orme , frontispiece of his autobiography Westminster , Middlesex , Great Britain [4]. Sailor writer merchant abolitionist. Susannah Cullen. Alabi The original text plus a side-by-side modern translation of every Shakespeare play.

Sign Up. Already have an account? Sign in. From the creators of SparkNotes, something better. Literature Poetry Lit Terms Shakescleare. Download this LitChart! Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Themes All Themes. Symbols All Symbols. Theme Wheel. Everything you need for every book you read. The way the content is organized and presented is seamlessly smooth, innovative, and comprehensive. LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Life of Olaudah Equiano , which you can use to track the themes throughout the work. Equiano stayed several weeks on the island before being shipped off for North America. In Virginia, he worked on a plantation for a few weeks until, his companions sold and dispersed, he was alone and had no one he could understand.

While he fanned the gentleman, he looked about the room and saw a clock hanging on the chimney. He was afraid at its noise and thought it might tell the master if Equiano did something wrong. Then he saw a portrait that seemed to look at him and he was even more frightened, thinking it might be a spirit that the white men kept after their death. Equiano moves on to another stop in the triangular trade: laboring on an American plantation while the slave traders pick up raw materials to bring back to England to be processed. Here he is introduced to yet more examples of the inhumane treatment of slaves, here in the form of painful physical bondage. As with the ship masts or the quadrant, the clock and portrait serve to emphasize how foreign this culture was to Equiano, and how much he has learned between this time and the time of writing his narrative.

Active Themes. Then, Equiano says, God smiled on him. He liked the look of Equiano and bought him for between 30 and 40 pounds, as a gift to his friends in England. Equiano was taken to the ship, where he was treated much more kindly: he started to think that perhaps not all white people were equally cruel. This would prove false, but at the time it made him happy. Equiano often has a precise recollection of the amount for which certain goods are sold. Slaves were considered goods, and by noting the price for which Pascal bought him, Equiano signals the absurdity of affixing the value of a human at thirty to forty pounds.

Nonetheless, Equiano is shown to be discerning and generous, willing to judge white people based on their behavior rather than lumping them all together as so many whites have done to Africans. Commerce and Trade. Under threat of force, Pascal attempts to change and control who Equiano is by changing is name. Baker had slaves himself, but he grew close to Equiano and they often suffered together and embraced during frightening moments aboard ship. Equiano also recognizes how difficult it is for someone in a culture that judges blacks as inferior to go against such prejudice.

The next day they saw large fishes, grampuses, which Equiano believed were rulers of the sea. Just then the wind died away, and he assumed the fish had caused this. After 13 weeks they caught sight of land and reached Falmouth, where the captain got provisions for a feast. It was spring and Equiano was nearly twelve: he found the pavement and buildings in Falmouth remarkable, as well as the snow, which fell the next day. Equiano went to church, though he failed to understand what it meant.

He often talked to a book himself, and was frustrated at its silence. Rather than shunning the culture of those who have enslaved him, Equiano is fascinated by it.

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