Olaudah Equiano

Life of Olaudah Equiano is a detailed story about the life of a well-educated
slave published. One section of the story in particular describes one of his
many experiences in the New World with one of his owners. This narrative is a
very powerful one telling about the treatment of slaves, but also many of the
good things Equiano experienced while he was a slave. He gives a seemingly
honest and unbiased account to his travels abroad. Equiano was born in 1745 in
an Ibo village located in Nigeria called Essaka and in 1756 captured by British
slave traders. He was brought to the West Indies and later to a Virginia

Plantation. During the Seven Year’s War he was present in many of the
important naval battles. At the time he was the property of a British man, Lt.

Michael Henry Pascal, who had originally bought him as a gift to a cousin in

London. After ten years he was sold to a Quaker named Robert King, who
eventually allowed him to buy his freedom for forty pounds. Equiano then
traveled the globe, as he was an experienced seaman. He spent much of his time
in London, where he was pushing the Queen in 1788 to allow the settlement of
blacks back in Africa in the British colony of Sierra Leone. Despite his
efforts, he never made it back to his homeland of Africa, though. He was married
in London in 1792 and had one daughter, but soon after died in 1797 (Costanzo

"Equiano") Equaino is most noted though, for his autobiography, which was
published nine times, including an American edition in 1791, and German and

Dutch editions in 1790 and 1791 respectively. Overall, nine editions were
published before 1837. The book was a bestseller for many years and still read
today as possibly one of the first influential slave narratives (Costanzo

Suprising Narrative) Equaino writes his narrative in a very honest and informal
form, as if he is writing to someone that he knows well. The audience however,
seems to be the people of the Americas as well as Europe, not just other blacks
or slaves. For this reason the book is published in America as well as Europe
several times while Equiano is still living. In the narrative, Equiano attempts
to tell his story with a very fair and accurate historical tone. By doing this
he can gain his reader’s trust as an unbiased historian, calling for necessary
action, rather than an angry slave trying to get back at the slaveholders. He
portrays both of his owners as fair men, appreciative of his hard work and good
behavior. They always give him the benefits he deserves, and never leave him
short of necessary money or supplies. With this reliable persona, though,

Equiano can describe the terrible treatment of fellow slaves that were not so
fortunate. The atrocities he speaks of, as well as the general lack of care for
the slaves, paints a very ugly picture of slavery. Any reasonable person not
holding slaves would be convinced of the immorality of the slave trade by
reading the narrative. He gives many convincing circumstances in which he tells
about the horrors of the slave trade. His account of one of the ships he
traveled upon reads like this: I was often witness to cruelties of every kind,
which were exercised on my unhappy fellow slaves. I used frequently to have
different cargoes of new negroes in my care for sale; and it was almost a
constant practice with our clerks and other whites, to commit violent
depredations on the chastity of the female slaves; and these I was, though with
reluctance, obliged to submit to at all times, being unable to help them. (Equiano

697) The horrors that he describes are countless in his narrative. Many portray
a much more vivid image, able to turn a staunch supporter of slavery to a
committed abolitionist (Kennerly 20-30). Equiano’s narrative brings about a
new style of literature rarely seen before, the slave narrative. It is similar
to that of the earlier Indian captivity narratives, but different in its
motives. Slaves worked in terrible conditions; they had no personal freedom, and
no ability to choose their destiny. Few were educated and even fewer had the
supplies to write down the things they encountered. When a slave was freed,
educated, and granted the supplies to write down his or her thoughts, they were
often published and widely read due to the ever growing hatred toward slavery in
the North as well as its abolishment in