Celebrating Black History Month: Olaudah Equiano

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Celebrate-Black-History-MonHello, again! It’s Kayla! I’m so glad to hear that so many of you have been enjoying what me and my brothers have posted so far. Who I chose to write about this week is Olaudah Equiano. He has fascinated me ever since I heard of him a few years ago. I was happy to find out while researching that he was a believer 🙂 I hope what I wrote encourages you to read more about him!

olaudah-equiano-1Olaudah Equiano, also known as Gustavus Vassa, was born around 1745. He was an abolitionist, author, poet, father, husband and Christian. But before he was all of those things he was just a young boy living with his family in a village in Nigeria. Around the age of eleven, he was kidnapped and sold to white slave traders. Equiano was taken to the New World and was then bought by Michael Pascal, a Royal Navy officer who lived in Virginia. Pascal was said to be cruel and even changed his name to Gustavus Vassa, as a joke to intentionally mock slavery. Gustavus Vassa was a Swedish man who during his life helped free hundreds of thousands of slaves.

Being the slave of a Navy officer, Equiano lived the naval life. He was exposed to many different cultures and shores which was very rare for plantation slaves of his time. Pascal thought it’d look good for Olaudah to get a proper education as well as tutoring, so his master sent him to London. He received some education and in 1766, he bought his freedom. While there, he became involved in the political and legal efforts to outlaw slavery and the British slave trade. He fought to help enslaved Africans get resettled back in Africa.

Olaudah Equiano, while on a voyage in Spain, really embraced Christianity. He had questioned his faith for a long time and he finally felt like he knew what choice to make. In his own words, he felt as if God was giving him a second chance. He truly believed that God created all men equal and we know that because he dedicated his life to the abolishment of slavery.

olaudah equianoIn 1789, he published his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano. He knew that one of his most powerful arguments against slavery was his own life. His book became very important and was a major contribution to the abolitionist cause. His book changed the hearts of people towards those enslaved and even inspired others to join him and many others in the fight for the abolishment of slavery. Equiano died in March of 1797. The Slave Trade in Britain didn’t end until nearly a decade later. It would be forty years later that slavery itself was abolished in the British Colonies.

Olaudah Equiano is one to remember. He may not be well known but the work he did made a large impact on those around him and it even influenced the enactment of the Slave Trade Act of 1807. The Slave Trade Act of 1807 prohibited the trading of Africans into slavery in the West Indies. It was one of the most momentous laws ever passed by the British parliament.

He was also portrayed in the movie Amazing Grace along the character of William Wilberforce.


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