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Interesting Narrative Essay

“Who are we looking for, who are we looking for? It’s Equiano we’re looking for. ” –those are the words from a chant about the disappearance of an African boy. The disappearance of Olaudah Equiano has become a subject for a national folklore. All along the sixteenth – nineteenth centuries thousands of Africans captured in West Africa had been shipped to be sold in slavery. Many of them wrote about their hard life’s experiences. Precisely in this way, by creating poems and autobiographies, the so-called slave narratives have been born.

“The interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Written by Himself” is one of them. That is a really an interesting narrative. But it is attractive not only because of its plot or author’s writing skills. This became the first memoir of a black slave whose autobiography has been recognized by the public and continued being interesting for millions of people far after its author’s death. “I had often seen my master and Dick employed in reading: and I had a great curiosity to talk to the books as I thought they did, and so to learn how all things had a beginning.

For that purpose I have often taken up a book, and have talked to it, and then put my ears to it, when alone, in hopes it would answer me; and I have been very much concerned when I found it remained silent. ” (Equiano 112). These words can be taken out as the main thesis of the research: Equiano showed with all his life that each person, even a slave, is able to reach many significant things in his life. The main aim is to have a great curiosity in “how all things had a beginning” and strong will. And it is very important for human hearts not to “remain silent” to other people’s sorrows.

There exists a certain problem regarding the authenticity of author’s text. The readers who have bought the Equiano’s book under the Allison’s edition must be aware of that fact that Allison has gathered different parts of Equiano’s autobiography which hasn’t been published by the author. A great deal of text is submitted by Allison, not Equiano. For example, the place in narrative in which Equiano gives references to his marriage. But a few pages earlier Equiano says he is free. Equiano changed the earlier passage when having added the relation to his marriage in 1792 in order to preserve the right cronology.

Allison hasn’t taken into consideration that fact. Therefore, it can be seen that the chronology hasn’t been observed in Allison’s edition. Within such a vision the Equiano’s book becomes even more mystical. It sounds like a far and vague voice perceived through another author’s interpretation. Nevertheless, despite of some discrepancies in Allison’s interpretation of Equiano’s narration, the latter remains a masterpiece of African literature. As it was already mentioned, the book in case became a sensation in the literature of that time as that was the first book written by a black man that has been edited.

But there are many other points in favor of Equiano’s book. One of them is that this book became a sample of new literature genre – a kind of social protest expressed in a very original way. There are no direct appeals for stopping the slavery in Africa by Africans but at the same time Equiano’s book is a burning request for ending the enslavement of Africans by other nations’ representatives. “I believe there are few events in my life that have not happened to many” –you can find these words in Equiano’s autobiography as well.

Those events are the kidnapping of l1-year-old Equiano and his serving to European slave traders. His book isn’t a result of imagination but proper author’s experiences. Equiano was a member of Ibo nation which resided in Nigeria. When Equiano was eleven he was kidnapped by slave traders together with his sister. He was brought to Virginia and was sold to Michael Pascal there. Pascal changed Equiano’s name to Gustavas Vassa (after a Swedish monarch from sixteenth century). Equiano has passed through many adventures before he bought his freedom in 1776.

He continued traveling through American colonies after that but as he still was afraid to be recaptured he went to England where he had been working for Charles Irving – a scientist who was famous for his experiments with slat-water purification. Eqiano was traveling then over Italy, Turkey and even the Artic studying many sciences in the course of that. Equiano’s autobiography was first published in 1789. It was published in two volumes and was entitled “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself”.

The narrative was declared to be one of the most prominent slave narratives of that time. In this narrative one can find Equiano’s experiences which he acquired being on the board of the slave ship, working as a gunpowder carrier in the Mediterranean or as a barber while going on as a sailor. Thanks to all of those great talents and skills got by himself in the course of his sated life, Equiano became a great intellectual of his age. His autobiography, besides being a brilliant pattern of autobiography, became a classic of the slave narrative genre.

Equiano has described his adventures in a very vivacious manner. Besides, his book has been released very timely – that time much attention was paid to negro–slavery society. Equiano’s book became one point in favor of the general hatred that was rising against the West –India planters who had been noted to reveal horrible cruelties directed on their slaves. Speaking about ‘humanity’ in his book Equiano had several purposes in mind. First of all, he meant that the slavery is inhuman. Equiano represents it as a cruel business which results in a great deal of human misery.

Of course, Equiano calls for the elimination of slavery in his autobiography. But he tries to reveal the most horrible thing that is the base of European slave traders’ attitude to the African nations. That is the anti-racist idea which was rather a wide-spread one in England of eighteen century. According to this idea African were not fully human beings. Equiano’s book is a great plea for the dissolving of this terrible myth in human’s minds. With a great talent he described a life of a man who had been a victim of that myth -his own life.

Taking into consideration the anti-racist intentions of Equiano’s autobiography, there are no denying facts that his book is a considerable political writing as well. A slave wrote a politically considerable book –that is the main Equiano’s paradox of that time which made human’s hearts to pay more attention to the miserable situation of Africans. A black boy, kidnapped by European traders and grew up among them, taught everything he could and wrote a kind of black self-presentation with a strong political meaning. The writing that book was a real feat by Equiano.

He was brave enough to create his autobiography after having lived all that through by himself. That was a real proof of that African people were not only “fully human” beings but they were a great nation whose aspiration for freedom was not less than of any other nation of the world. Olaudah Equiano’s life is a brilliant example of human’s will in its most prominent expression – willing to be free. By that time not too many of slavers’ narrations had appeared. Those were mostly oral narrations by a slave which were gathered by white scientists. Equiano’s narrative was different from those ones.

It was different not only because of his writing skills but, first of all, because he has written it by himself and, moreover, he published it by himself. He published it by subscription and by that way he forced many people to pay for his book in advance. Among those people the Prince of Wales and a range of dukes were. Another strong act by Equiano was that he not only had published the book but went on promoting it. He carried out a range of lections in England, Scotland and Wales. By promoting his book he was promoting at the same time the abolition of slavery.

He was present at the lections arranged by local abolition committees in many regions. Thus, Equiano managed not only to convert his autobiography in anti-slavery document but converted his whole life into anti-slavery movement. As one can see, the poor slave kidnapped and grown up in slavery resulted to be a wonderful author, publisher, producer and political figure. He showed how an ordinary autobiography of a slave may convert into a strong social and even political movement. Equiano‘s narrative was proclaimed by many critics to be the most remarkable among the books by black writers of the 18th century.

Arna Bontemps in his introduction to “Great Slave Narratives” (1969) characterized Equiano’s narrative as “the first truly notable book in the genre of the salve narrative”. Equiano became an entire historical epoch regarding the African culture. It has become the base of all African studies. His book will remain an eternal testimony of slavery as a shameful act of humanity. Equiano wrote the autobiography but his main aim was not to make his life famous but to show all the consequences which the violence and aggressiveness may have.

The autobiography by Equiano is worth of reading because of many reasons. First of all, the personal skills of the author made his description colorful and dynamic. He managed to quickly learn the language, religion, law and commerce of his enslavers. Thus, he found the possibility to buy his freedom, find employment, travel the world, and become a legitimate advocate for abolition. The horrors that Equiano was forced to face didn’t not break him. He was able to win thanks to a combination of luck, intelligence, and hard work in his character.

His ironic sense of humor in narrating his numerous adventures and roles in life indicates that he perceived himself as a survivor. He was aware of all the difficulties that could wait for him and nevertheless was ready to cope with them. In the beginning of narrative the goal of freedom is established, and he then expends all of his energy on attaining it. Equiano wrote his narrative after he had been converted to Christianity. Christianity means spiritual rebirth and this formula certainly was a strong point while structuring his story.

It also caused an efficient influence on the readers’ minds. So, the spiritual author’s rebirth also influenced on Equiano’s writing – he wrote his autobiography according to the personal religious, spiritual changes. Equiano is often compared to Robinson Crusoe. Like the famous hero of Daniel Defoe he got into the foreign environment and managed to survive there and carry his will to freedom and happiness through all the difficulties of his outstanding life. That’s why Olaudah Equiano will always remain in human’s hearts as a symbol of freedom and powerful human will.

And having passed many years hundreds of people when reading the ““The interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Written by Himself” will say: ““Who are we looking for, who are we looking for? It’s Equiano we’re looking for. ” Bibliography 1. Olaudah, Equiano. (Edited with an introduction by Robert J. Allison). The Interesting Narrative of the life of Olaudah Equiano, written by himself. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press, 1995. READ EXCERPTS from The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano . . . From Ch.

1: Description of Equiano’s Early Life and the Culture of his People Read online one of the first detailed descriptions ever published of a traditional African culture from the perspective of an African, which makes for interesting comparisons to Part I of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. The Life of Olaudah Equiano (British Library: African Collections) Extract from: The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, The African. Written by Himself. London: Printed for and sold by the author, No. 10, Union-Street, Middlesex Hospital, [1789]. Vol. 1, Chapter 1, pp.

4-38: http://www. bl. uk/collections/africanolaudah. html From Ch. 2: “THEY… CARRY OFF AS MANY AS THEY CAN SEIZE” “My father, besides many slaves, had a numerous family, of which seven lived to grow up, including myself and a sister, who was the only daughter. As I was the youngest of the sons, I became, of course, the greatest favourite of my mother, and was always with her; and she used to take particular pains to form my mind. I was trained up from my earliest years in the arts of agriculture and war; and my mother adorned me with emblems, after the manner of our greatest warriors.

In this way I grew up till I was turned the age of eleven, when an end was put to my happiness in the following manner:–Generally, when the grown people in the neighbourhood were gone far in the fields to labour, the children assembled together in some of the neighborhood’s premises to play; and commonly some of us used to get up a tree to look out for any assailant, or kidnapper, that might come upon us; for they sometimes took those opportunities of our parents’ absence, to attack and carry off as many as they could seize.

One day, as I was watching at the top of a tree in our yard, I saw one of those people come into the yard of our next neighbour but one, to kidnap, there being many stout young people in it. Immediately, on this, I gave the alarm of the rogue, and he was surrounded by the stoutest of them, who entangled him with cords, so that he could not escape till some of the grown people came and secured him. “But alas! ere long, it was my fate to be thus attacked, and to be carried off, when none of the grown people were nigh.

One day, when all our people were gone out to their works as usual, and only I and my dear sister were left to mind the house, two men and a woman got over our walls, and in a moment seized us both; and, without giving us time to cry out, or make resistance, they stopped our mouths, and ran off with us into the nearest wood. Here they tied our hands, and continued to carry us as far as they could, till night came on, when we reached a small house, where the robbers halted for refreshment, and spent the night.

We were then unbound; but were unable to take any food; and, being quite overpowered by fatigue and grief, our only relief was some sleep, which allayed our misfortune for a short time. ” –From Ch. II of The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa the African (London, 1789). Rpt. Mintz, “A Son of Africa: Resources for Teachers”: http://www. newsreel. org/guides/equiano. htm [Corresponding to sections of 1814 ed. reprinted in Gates, The Classic Slave Narratives p. 25. ] From Ch.

2: “A MULTITUDE OF BLACK PEOPLE… CHAINED TOGETHER” “Olaudah Equiano vividly recounts the shock and isolation that he felt during the Middle Passage to Barbados and his fear that the European slavers would eat him” (“A Son of Africa”). The European slavers’ “complexions, differing so much from ours, their long hair and the language they spoke, which was different from any I had ever heard, united to confirm me in this belief [that Equiano “had got into a world of bad spirits and that they were going to kill me”].

Indeed, such were the horrors of my views and fears at the moment, that if ten thousand worlds had been my own, I would have freely parted with them all to have exchanged my condition with that of the meanest slave of my own country. When I looked around the ship and saw a large furnace of copper boiling, and a multitude of black people of every description chained together, every one of their countenances expressing dejection and sorrow, I no longer doubted my fate. Quite overpowered with horror and anguish, I fell motionless on the deck and fainted.

When I recovered a little, I found some black people about me, and I believe some were those who had brought me on board and had been receiving their pay. They talked to me in order to cheer me up, but all in vain. I asked them if we were not to be eaten by those white men with horrible looks, red faces and long hair. They told me I was not . . . . I took a little [wine] down my palate, which, instead of reviving me as they thought it would, threw me into the greatest consternation at the strange feeling it produced, having never tasted such liquor before.

“Soon after this, the blacks who had brought me on board went off and left me abandoned to despair. I now saw myself deprived of all chance of returning to my native country or even the least glimpse of hope of gaining the shore, which I now considered as friendly. I even wished for my former slavery in preference to my present situation, which was filled with horrors of every kind. . . .[Equiano was then “put down under the decks” and ] There I received such a salutation in my nostrils as I had never experienced in my life.

With the loathesomeness of the stench and the crying together, I became so sick and low that I was not able to eat, nor had I the least desire to taste anything. I now wished for the last friend, Death, to relieve me. Soon, to my grief, two of the white men offered me eatables and on my refusing to eat, one of them held me fast by the hands and laid me across the windlass and tied my feet while the other flogged me severely. I had never experienced anything of this kind before. . . . If I could have gotten over the nettings, I would have jumped over the side, but I could not.

The crew used to watch very closely those of us who were not chained down to the decks, lest we should leap into the water. I have seen some of these poor African prisoners most severely cut for attempting to do so, and hourly whipped for not eating. This indeed was often the case with myself . . . . [Meeting some of his countrymen among the chained Africans below decks,] I inquired of these what was to be done with us. They gave me to understand we were to be carried to these white people’s country to work for them.

I then was a little revived, and thought if it were no worse than working, my situation was not so desperate. But still I feared that I should be put to death, the white people looked and acted in so savage a manner. I have never seen among my people such instances of brutal cruelty, and this not only shown towards us blacks, but also to some of the whites themselves. One white man in particular I saw, when we were permitted to be on deck, flogged so unmercifully with a large rope near the foremast that he died in consequence of it, and they tossed him over the side as they would have done a brute.

This made me fear these people the more, and I expected nothing less than to be treated in the same manner. . . . I asked [my countrymen] if these people had no country, but lived in this hollow place [the ship]? They told me they did not but came from a distant land. ‘Then,’ said I, ‘how comes it that in all our country we never heard of them? ‘ They told me because they lived so far off. I then asked where were their women? Had they any like themselves? I was told they had. ‘And why do we not see them’ I asked.

They answered, ‘Because they were left behind. ‘ I asked how the vessel could go? They told me they could not tell, but there was cloth put upon the masts by the help of the ropes I saw, and then vessels went on, and the white men had some spell or magic they put in the water when they liked in order to stop the vessel when they liked. I was exceedingly amazed at this account, and really thought they were spirits. I therefore wished much to be from amongst them, for I expected they would sacrifice me.

But my wishes were in vain–for we were so quartered that it was impossible for us to make our escape. ” “. . . .At last, when the ship we were in had got in all her cargo, they made ready with many fearful noises, and we were all put under deck, so that we could not see how they managed the vessel. . . . The stench of the hold while we were on the coast was so intolerably loathsome, that it was dangerous to remain there for any time… some of us had been permitted to stay on the deck for the fresh air.

But now that the whole ship’s cargo were confined together, it became absolutely pestilential. The closeness of the place and the heat of the climate, added to the number of the ship, which was so crowded that each had scarcely room to turn himself, almost suffocated us. This produced copious perspirations so that the air became unfit for respiration from a variety of loathsome smells, and brought on a sickness among the slaves, of which many died–thus falling victims of the improvident avarice, as I may call it, of their purchasers.

This wretched situation was again aggravated by the galling of the chains, which now became insupportable, and the filth of the necessary tubs [toilets] into which the children often fell and were almost suffocated. The shrieks of the women and the groans of the dying rendered the whole a scene of horror almost inconceivable. Happily perhaps for myself, I was soon reduced so low that it was necessary to keep me almost always on deck and from my extreme youth I was not put into fetters.

In this situation I expected every hour to share the fate of my companions, some of whom were almost daily brought upon the deck at the point of death, which I began to hope would soon put an end to my miseries. Often did I think many of the inhabitants of the deep much more happy than myself. I envied them the freedom they enjoyed, and as often wished I could change my condition for theirs. Every circumstance I met with, served only to render my state more painful and heightened my apprehensions and my opinion of the cruelty of the whites.

. . .” “One day, when we had a smooth sea and moderate wind, two of my wearied countrymen who were chained together (I was near them at the time), preferring death to such a life of misery, somehow made through the nettings and jumped into the sea. Immediately another quite dejected fellow, who on account of his illness was suffered to be out of irons, followed their example. I believe many more would very soon have done the same if they had not been prevented by the ship’s crew, who were instantly alarmed.

Those of us that were the most active were in a moment put down under the deck, and there was such a noise and confusion among the people of the ship as I never heard before to stop her and get the boat out to go after the slaves. However, two of the wretches were drowned, but they got the other and afterwards flogged him unmercifully for thus attempting to prefer death to slavery. . . . I can now relate, hardships which are inseparable from this accursed trade. Many a time we were near suffocation from the want of fresh air, which we were often without for whole days together.

This, and the stench of the necessary tubs, carried off many. ” –From Ch. II of The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa the African (London, 1789). Rpt. Mintz, “A Son of Africa: Resources for Teachers”: http://www. newsreel. org/guides/equiano. htm [Corresponding to sections of 1814 ed. reprinted in Gates, The Classic Slave Narratives pp. 33-34; 35-36. ] Carey also reprints online Extracts from Equiano’s Narrative, Ch. 2: “Boarding a Slave-Ship”: http://www. brycchancarey. com/equiano/extract2. htm “The Middle Passage”: http://www. brycchancarey. com/equiano/extract3. htm

From Ch. 2: “DREAD AND TREMBLING” Olaudah Equiano offers a first-hand account of his arrival in the West Indies in 1756 (“A Son of Africa”). [Arrival at “the island of Barbadoes” in the Caribbean:] “As the vessel drew nearer, we plainly saw the harbor and other ships of different kinds and sizes and we soon anchored amongst them off Bridgetown. Many merchants and planters came on board . . . . They put us in separate parcels and examined us attentively. They also made us jump, and pointed to the land, signifying we were to go there. We thought by this we should be eaten by these ugly men, as they appeared to us.

When soon after we were all put down under the deck again, there was much dread and trembling among us and nothing but bitter cries to be heard all the night from the apprehensions. At last the white people got some old slaves from the land to pacify us. They told us we were not to be eaten, but to work, and were soon to go on land, where we should see many of our country people. This report eased us much, and sure enough, soon after we landed, there came to us Africans of all languages. “We were conducted immediately to the merchant’s yard, where we were all pent up together, like so many sheep in a fold, without regard to sex or age.

As every object was new to me, everything I saw filled me with surprise. What struck me first was that the houses were built with bricks and stories, and in every respect different from those I had seen in Africa, but I was still more astonished to see people on horseback. I did not know what this could mean, and indeed I thought these people were full of nothing but magical arts. While I was in this astonishment, one of my fellow prisoners spoke to a countryman of his about the horses who said they were the same kind they had in their country.

I understood them, though they were from a distant part of Africa and I thought it odd I had not seen any horses there; but afterwards when I came to converse with different Africans, I found they had many horses amongst them, and much larger than those I then saw. “We were not many days in the merchant’s custody, before we were sold after their usual manner . . . On a signal given, (as the beat of a drum), buyers rush at once into the yard where the slaves are confined, and make a choice of that parcel they like best.

The noise and clamor with which this is attended, and the eagerness visible in the countenances of the buyers, serve not a little to increase the apprehension of terrified Africans . . . . In this manner, without scruple, are relations and friends separated, most of them never to see each other again. I remember in the vessel in which I was brought over… there were several brothers who, in the sale, were sold in different lots; and it was very moving on this occasion, to see and hear their cries in parting. ” –From Ch. II of The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa the African (London, 1789).

Rpt. Mintz, “A Son of Africa: Resources for Teachers”: http://www. newsreel. org/guides/equiano. htm [Corresponding to sections of 1814 ed. reprinted in Gates, The Classic Slave Narratives pp. 37-38. ] At this point in Ch. 2 of the Narrative, Equiano passionately addresses his European enslavers: “O, ye nominal Christians! might not an African ask you, ‘learned you this from your God, who says unto you, Do unto all men as you would men should do unto you? Is it not enough that we are torn from our country and friends, to toil for your luxury and lust of gain? Must every tender feeling be likewise sacrificed to your avarice?

Are the dearest friends and relations now rendered more dear by their separation from the rest of their kindred, still to be parted from each other, and thus prevented from cheering the gloom of slavery, with the samll comfort of being together, and mingling their sufferings and sorrows? Why are parents to lose their children, brothers their sisters, or husbands their wives? Surely this is a new refinement in cruelty, which, while it has no advantage to atone for it, thus aggravates distress, and adds fresh horrors even to the wretchedness of slavery. ” –From Ch.

II of The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa the African, 1814 ed. as reprinted in Gates, The Classic Slave Narratives p. 38. Read all of Chapter 2 of Equiano’s Autobiography online courtesy of Africans in America (WGBH/PBS Online): http://www. pbs. org/wgbh/aia/part1/1h320t. html “The Abuse of Slaves in the West Indies” Read Ch. 5 excerpt from “Olaudah Equiano: The Life of Gustavus Vassa” courtesy of World Civilizations (Washington State Univ. , 1996, 1999): http://www. wsu. edu:8000/~dee/Equiano. html More selections, also available on the Washington State Univ.

web, courtesy of Reading About the World, Vol. 2; ed. Paul Brians and others, Harcourt Brace Custom Books: http://www. wsu. edu:8080/~wldciv/world_civ_reader/world_civ_reader_2/equiano. html “Equiano Gains his Freedom” Read Ch. 7 excerpt, courtesy of Brycchan Carey: http://www. brycchancarey. com/equiano/extract4. htm “. . . Equiano’s account of his own manumission in 1766. Equiano’s owner, the Philadelphia Quaker Robert King, had in 1765 promised Equiano that he could buy back his own freedom if he ever raised the sum of forty pounds, the price King had himself paid for Equiano.

King, who conducted much of his business from the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean Leeward Islands, put Equiano to work on one of his ships. Fortunately for Equiano, this meant that he could earn the money by petty trading, an activity in which he received some encouragement from the ship’s ‘friendly captain’; Thomas Farmer” (Carey). “The Case Against the Slave Trade” Read Ch. 12 excerpt, courtesy of Brycchan Carey: http://www. brycchancarey. com/equiano/extract5. htm “. . . Equiano’s arguments against the slave trade, in particular, his argument that the trade did not make sound economic sense” (Carey).

A 1789 REVIEW of Equiano’s Narrative From the beginning, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavas Vassa, the African. Written by Himself was a bestseller, in such demand that it experienced some fifteen editions, and attracted reviews in the leading journals of the time. One favorable 1789 review that appeared in London’s The Monthly Review is reprinted here: “A Review of The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavas Vassa, the African. ” The Monthly Review [London] Vol. LXXX, 1789, p. 55152.

Gale Literature Resource Center [Online Subscription Database]. The Gale Group, 2004. Central Oregon Community College Library, Bend, OR. 17 August 2004. [NOTE: Gale Literature Resource Center subscription database articles are available online to COCC students!! ] Among aspects of the above 1789 review to notice, is the fact that the anonymous reviewer addresses the question of the “authenticity” of Equiano’s “very intelligent” Narrative, suggesting “that some English writer” may have assisted Equiano in the “compilement, or, at least, the correction of his book: for it is sufficiently well written.

” SIGNIFICANCE OF EQUIANO’S SLAVE NARRATIVE “The slave narrative is a polemical genre; it makes no bones about it. ” –Anthony Appiah, quoted in Ferguson (249). Brycchan Carey outlines the political goals of Equiano’s slave narrative in “Olaudah Equiano: A Critical Biography”: http://www. brycchancarey. com/equiano/biog. htm According to Carey, to show that a black African had abilities equal to a white European is one implicit political goal encompassed by Equiano’s statement early in his autobiography:

“‘If it affords any satisfaction to my numerous friends, at whose request it has been written, or in the smallest degree promotes the interest of humanity, the ends for which it was undertaken will be fully attained, and every wish of my heart gratified. ‘ When Equiano refers to ‘humanity’ he seems to have several things in mind. Firstly he of course means that slavery is inhumane in that it is a cruel business resulting in a great deal of human misery. He is calling for its abolition.

But as well as the overt anti-slavery agenda there is a more subtle anti-racist project going on to dispel some of the racist myths current in eighteenth-century England. Amongst these was an increasingly widespread myth that Africans were either not fully human or were of a less developed branch of humanity. Part of Equiano’s project is to dispel this myth entirely by showing the world that he, in common with all human beings, is quite capable of writing a fine book describing a life which would be considered extraordinary and full of talent and seized opportu.

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