Olaudah Equiano

Olaudah Equiano, also known as Gustavus Vassa, was an African ex-slave who played an important part in the abolition of slavery. He was a slave, a sailor, explorer, writer, an abolitionist and a hairdresser.

Olaudah was born in 1745 in a village of Igbo (now Nigeria) called Essaka. His father was a tribe chief and had seven children; Olaudah was the youngest of the five sons and had a younger sister.
Equiano was kidnapped at 11 years by two men and a woman while playing with his sister near the house. They were taken to the coast of West Africa, where they were separated from each other and Olaudah was transported across the Atlantic along with two hundred and forty-four other slaves. The shrieks of women, and the groaning of the dying, created a scene of horror almost unbelievable. Three desperate slaves tried to kill themselves- Extract from Equiano’s book
He was then bought by Lt. Pascal from the British Royal Navy and worked for him during the Seven Years War. Even though Equiano was a slave, he assisted the crew in times of battle and carried the gunpowder to the gun decks. Pascal then sent him to live with his relatives in London, so he could learn to read, write and to do maths. Equiano was baptised and converted to Christianity.
Pascal sold him to Captain James Doran and told him to sell Equiano “to the best master as he is a deserving boy”. Doran sold him to Robert King who was a Quaker.
In 1766, at the age of 21, after saving up for three years, Equiano bought his freedom. In 1773, he took part in an expedition to discover the Arctic. Later on, he moved back to England, and became an abolitionist. He published his autobiography ‘The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano’ in 1789. This book was a huge success in England and he sold over 1,900 copies in Ireland alone.
In 1791 he married Susannah Cullen and they had two children called Joanna and Anna-Maria Vassa. He died on the 31st March 1797.

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