Who was Equiano?Millions of Africans were transported across the Atlantic and sold into slavery but very few had the chance to describe their experience to the world.One who did was an African named Olaudah Equiano.He wrote an amazing autobiography that described his lifes journey from freedom to slavery and back to freedom again.
Childhood... Olaudah Equiano was born into a wealthy West African family in 1745. His family lived far from the sea, in an area now part of Nigeria. When he was eleven, Equiano was captured by African slave traders.
‘One day, when all our peoplewere gone out to their works asusual, and only I and my dearsister were left to mind thehouse, two men and a womangot over our walls, and in amoment seized usboth, and, without giving us timeto cry out, or makeresistance, they stopped ourmouths, and ran off with us intothe nearest wood. Here they tiedour hands, and continued to
Equiano was sold several times and eventually ended up by the African coast.What do you think happened to him next?
Equiano found himself on the Africas Atlantic coast for the first time in his life. There he saw a slave ship anchored offshore.He had no idea what lay ahead. No Africans had ever returned from the Americas to tell of their fate.
“When I looked around the ship and saw ... a multitude of black people, of every description, chained together, every one of their countenances expressing dejection and sorrow, I no longer doubted of my fate; and, quite overpowered with horror and anguish, I fell motionless on the deck, and fainted. . . I asked if we were not to be eaten by those white men with horrible looks, red faces and long hair?"In your books, answer the questions below.Describe what Equiano saw when he went onto the slave ship.How do you think he felt and why?
What can you remember about the Middle Passage?What do you think Equiano’s journey to America was like?
Equiano was only 12 when he was transported on a slave ship.How do you think he felt?Write down as many words as you can to describe how he might have been feeling.
The slave auction...‘On a signal given (as the beat of a drum), the buyers rush at once into the yard where the slaves are confined, and make choice... The noise 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 are relations and friends separated, most of them never to see each other again.’Write down five words to describe the slave auction.
Equiano was taken north to a plantation in Virginia. There he was shocked to see the instruments used to control and punish slaves:“A black woman slave was cruelly loaded with various kinds of iron machines; she had one on her head which locked her mouth so fast that she could barely speak, and could not eat or drink.”Why do you think someslaves were treated likethis ?
Equiano was soon sold again. His new owner was named Michael Henry Pascal, a lieutenant in the British navy.Pascal gave him Equiano a new name: Gustavus VassaWhy do you think slave owners renamed their slaves?
Equiano refused to answer to this name at first. Pascal slapped him with each refusal, and soon he relented.How is this similar to Kunta/Toby in Roots?How is this different to Kunta/Toby in Roots?
Education in slavery...Under Pascal, Equiano learned to be a sailor. He spent much time in England, where he managed to educate himself as well.Based on what we know so far, what do you think of Pascal?What do you think Equiano thinks about him?
“I began to consider myself as happily situated, for my master treated me always extremely well; and my attachment and gratitude to him were very great. I soon grew a stranger to terror of every kind, and was, in that respect at least almost an Englishman.”
How does this image of Equiano back up what we know about him?
Write down everything you can remember about Equiano.You have five minutes.
Now move around the room and get some more information from other people and add it to your notes.You have five minutes.
What do you think happened to Equiano next? Discuss and write down your ideas.
After seven years, Equiano had grown comfortable with his fate.What does that mean?Why has he accepted it?
He was shocked once again when his owner sold him. His buyer was Captain James Doran, who was the captain of a ship bound for the West Indies.How do you think Equino felt about his new owner?What could he do about it?
Equiano challenged the sale and told Doran this:“I told him my master could not sell me to him, nor to anyone else.Why, said he, did not your master buy you?I confessed he did. But I have served him, said I, many years, besides this I have been baptized, and by the laws of the land no man has a right to sell me.And I added that I had heard a lawyer and others at different times tell my master so.”Do you think this will change anything?
Doran was not persuaded:“Captain Doran said he had a method on board to make me [behave]. I was too well convinced of his power over me to doubt what he said; and my former sufferings in the slave-ship presenting themselves to my mind, the recollection of them made me shudder.”What might Equiano have been thinking about?
Doran took Equiano back to the Caribbean and sold him on.He was bought by a merchant from Philadelphia named Robert King.King treated Equiano well, but Equiano had tasted freedom and couldnt accept a slaves life anymore.How has Equiano ‘tasted freedom’?
Equiano has secretly been saving up money.What do you think he planned to do?
Eventually he saved 40 pounds (equal to about £4,500 today).That was enough to purchase his freedom.Do you think this is a fair amount for a human’s freedom?
“Before night, I who had been a slave in the morning, trembling at the will of another, was become my own master and completely free. I thought this was the happiest day I had ever experienced.”Write down five words to describe how you think Equiano felt?
L.O. Understanding how Equiano helped to influence others.
A free man!As a free man, Equiano continued working as a sailor for years. He travelled widely, but his personal struggle against racism and slavery continued.
Equiano became a public speaker in his adopted home of England.In 1789, he wrote his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of The Life of Olaudah Equiano.It was an immediate best seller!Equiano became Englands leading spokesperson for blacks and the abolition of slavery.
Olaudah Equiano died in 1797.Ten years later, Britain and the United States abolished the slave trade.
Your task...You are going to write about Olaudah Equiano.You must write in full sentences and using paragraphs and correct punctuation.You will be given a plan to follow and you can use the information in your books to help you.
Olaudah EquianoIntroductionExplain a bit about the slave trade and the middle passage.Write about Equiano’s background in Africa and how he was captured as child.Paragraph 2Write about how what Equiano saw on the ship and what his journey might have been like.Describe the slave auction and how you think he must have felt.Paragraph 3Write about what Equiano’s life was like when he was owned by Mr Pascal: what did he learn; how did he feel?Paragraph 4Explain how he was sold again and then bought his own freedom.Write about what Equiano did once he was free.ConclusionYour opinion: what do you think about Olaudah Equiano and his life?How important do you think he is? How is he different to other slaves?Can you compare him to Kunta Kinte in ‘Roots’?