The life of Olaudah Equiano

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Olaudah Equiano was born in Essaka, an Igbo village in the kingdom of Benin, in 1745. His father was one of the province's elders. When he was about eleven, Equiano was kidnapped by a group of slave traders and after six months of captivity was brought to the coast where he encountered white men for the first time.

Sold to slave-traders, Equiano was transported to Barbados. After a two-week stay in the West Indies Equiano was sent to the English colony of Virginia. He was later purchased by Captain Henry Pascal, a British naval officer. Under this master, who owned Equiano for the next seven years, Equiano would move to England, educate himself, and travel the world on ships under Pascal's command. He began buying fruit before sailing and selling it on to the sailors for a small profit. Eventually he had saved enough money where he could purchase his freedom from Henry Pascal to become a free man.

As a free man, Equiano settled in England, there he made a close friend of Thomas Hardy, secretary of the London Corresponding Society. Equiano became an active member of this political society that campaigned in favor of universal suffrage. In 1787 Equiano helped his friend, Offobah Cugoano, to publish an account of his experiences, Narrative of the Enslavement of a Native of America. Copies of his book were sent to George III and leading politicians. He failed to persuade the king to change his opinions and like other members of the royal family remained against abolition of the slave trade.

Equiano published his own autobiography, "The Life of Olaudah Equiano" the African in 1789. He traveled throughout England promoting the book. It became a bestseller and was also published in Germany (1790), America (1791) and Holland (1791). He also...