Olaudah Equiano Paper

This essay has a total of 1239 words and 6 pages.

Olaudah Equiano



An ironsmith, ship steward, crewman, cook, clerk, navigator, amateur scientist, and even a
hairdresser. These are all jobs that Olaudah Equiano held during his lifetime. He has been
called the "most influential African writer in both Africa, America and Britain before the
Civil War", and was born in Essaka, Nigeria sometime during 1745 (O'Neale, 153). His
family was part of the Ibo tribe, which was located in the North Ika Ibo region of Essaka.
In his earliest years, Olaudah Equiano was trained in the art of war. His daily exercises
included shooting and throwing javelins. As he states in his autobiography, two men and a
woman, who came over the walls while the rest of the family was away, abducted Olaudah and
his sister in 1756 (Equiano, 356). He was only eleven years old. The two of them would
only be reunited when Equiano was sold a second time. They did not remain together that
long because he would be sold again.

Olaudah Equiano would eventually be sold to a man by the name of Michael Henry Pascal, an
officer of the British Royal Navy, who set sail for the American continent. Michael Pascal
renamed him Gustavus Vassa. In the years that followed, Olaudah became a great seaman and
sailed around the world. His stops included the slave-trading islands of

the West Indies, England, Ireland, Wales, France, Portugal, Italy, Central America,
Georgia, Virginia, Philadelphia and New England. It seemed that he traveled everywhere
except to where he really wanted to go, which was Africa. It was during these years that
he learned the English language and values from a seaman by the name of Richard Baker.

By 1759 Equiano had become fully articulate in the English language. He fought for the
British during the seven-year war against France. Even though he had earned his freedom by
fighting in the war, Pascal would not grant Equiano his freedom. Instead he confiscated
all of Equiano's books and sold him to the captain of a slave ship in 1763. His new owner,
Robert King, would eventually sell Equiano his freedom in 1766 for 70 pounds. Robert King
asked Equiano to remain as his employee and Equiano did. This led him to Georgia where he
was almost captured and resold into slavery. It was also during this time that Equiano got
rid of the name Gustavus Vassa.

In 1768, Equiano returned to London, England and began an apprenticeship to a hairdresser.
It was also during this time that he became employed by Dr. Charles Irving. It was with
Dr. Irving that Equiano would go to the North Pole in 1773 and barely escaped death when
their ship struck an iceberg. In 1786 Equiano was appointed commissary for Stores for the
Black Poor. This was a social outreach group of the British antislavery movement that saw
returning blacks to Africa as the best way to end British slave trade (O'Neale, 157). He
was fired after five months because of a conflict he had with Joseph Irwin. This conflict
drew criticism onto Equiano but he would regain his status in the abolition movement by
publishing responses to the criticism in the British newspapers.

In 1789, Equiano's autobiography was published in London and by 1790 Equiano was fully
involved in the antislavery movement in Britain. He petitioned the Queen and the
Parliament to end the slavery. The following year the autobiography was published in
America. It has been said "no black voice before Frederick Douglass in his Narrative of
1845 spoke so movingly to American readers about inhumanity" (Murphy,354). Equiano would
finally settle and marry Susan Cullen on April 7, 1792. They had two girls who were named
Ann Marie and Johana. Some sources say Equiano died in 1801 while others say 1797. We are
not sure which one is correct. One of his daughters did die a few months after he did. His
wife and other daughter then left the limelight and no record of them has been found.
Equiano's book has lasted over two hundred years and has gone through eight editions. And
is still being called the "most successful prose work written by an African in the Western
World until the start of the American Civil War" (O'Neale, 157).

Olaudah Equiano I must say had a most interesting life as a slave. He has gone through
almost every single event a slave could have gone through. The most interesting part of
his journeys is his treatment as a slave. He at some points is treated well and doesn't
know what to make of it as a slave. One example is his first owners used to let him sit at
the table during dinnertime. In other points he experiences many of his own kind and the
inhumane treatment they experience. But all in all Olaudah Equiano unlike many other
slaves kept his composure and his humbleness towards all he met in his journeys. He never
felt any anger towards his masters. After witnessing all the cruelties his masters
committed on other slaves. The horrendous stories of cutting a mans leg of for running
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