Free «Olaudah Equiano’s Memoir» Essay
Equiano Olaudah led an intriguing existence in the 18th century when the intercontinental slave trade was high. Equiano was born in the mid-18th century in Igbo village, Nigeria. At the age of eleven, Equiano was sold into slavery. He started working as a slave as a child, and by the time he was twenty years old, he had worked in the war between French and England navy. He also worked on the ships in Southern America and West Indies. He survived the dangers of slavery and sea despite his young age in slavery. In the slavery land, Equiano was known as Gustavus Vassa. He saved every coin which he managed to get. This is the money he used to buy his freedom with after a brutal experience of slavery in 1789; he published his memoir which focused on international slave trade and its implications (Equiano 34).
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Equiano and his younger sister were kidnapped into slavery at a very young age. He lived in slave homes where he was treated as a member. He first enjoyed the humane slavery in Africa as they were called, however, life changed when he was taken to Barbados. Being his first encounter with the whites, Equiano feared that the white man would eat him or kill him. There were terrifying horrors on the journey from Africa to Barbados (Equiano 47). He did not reach his planned destiny since he was taken to Virginia first. The slave trade continued in Virginia colony where Michael Pascal bought him and took him to the British navy which was also tough but opportunistic.
As Pascal’s slave, Equiano had opportunities which were not common to other slaves. He traveled with Pascal to England and other military excursions. However, Pascal did not give him the freedom he had promised at the beginning meanwhile things changed and life became harder than before. Pascal sold Equiano to West Indies. He was a quick learner, patient and had business intelligence. This is what led him to purchase freedom from slavery.
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Equiano worked in West Indies for a while and then travelled to London. He visited several paces including Americas, Arctic, Europe and the Middle East. Equiano became a Christian in 1777 (Davis & Henry 154). The English government hired him to work in the resettlement of Africans from London to Sierra Leone. Eventually, Equiano went back to England and joined evangelical Christianity. The English government offered him a job to settle Africans in Sieerra Leone colony. His desire to share his personal experience in slavery led him to the publishing of the memoir.
The European slave trade flourished between 1500 and 1800. More than twelve million Africans were taken from their motherland to West Indies as slaves, either sold or captured. Thousands of the captured Africans did not reach the destinies. West Indies plantation died on the long journey. Others were sold to foreigners before reaching the destiny. The slave trade confounded the cultures of central and West Africa. Ironically, this inhuman trade was not organized by Europeans only, there were many Africa collaborators who sold their brothers and sisters to die abroad. In fact, the Europeans rarely moved to the interior to capture Africans. This was done by fellow Africans who captured slaves and took them to the coastal forts for sale.
Slavery was in Africa even before the arrival of the Europeans. However, salves in Africa occupied a different space as compared to slaves in Europe. In Africa, slaves were allowed to marry, eat, sleep, and gain wealth and social growth in the captor’s home and community. Many African captors treated their slaves as a part of the family or subordinate family members. The slaves only worked more than the family members, but the food, lodging and clothing was similar with their masters’. The only difference was that they were not allowed to dine with the family members. In fact, some masters considered the slaves as part of their property and protected them against any harm or torture. Equiano’s memoir reports a total contrast to those who were sold as salves in West Indies. They were taken as slaves and had no freedom to do anything except work when it was told to do so. Equiano remembers how he was treated kindly when he was among those who spoke his language when he briefly served as a slave in Africa. Contrary, there was racism and harshness in the West Indies Plantations. The Europeans did not create slavery in Africa; they only altered what existed (Andrews 38).
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The Europeans exploited African political kingdoms. This was the primary source of the slaves. The Europeans would start war and capture Africans who lost in the war. The Africans had this trend of capturing the captives whenever they were in a war. However, the Africans could take them as part of their community and take the women as wives. Europeans took them away as slaves and tortured them on their way (Costanzo 78).
In conclusion, Equiano’s memoir is the first slave narrative. He passed through many horrors but they did finish him. With a combination of luck, hard work and intelligence, Equiano was able to win. He had ironic sense of humor which enabled him to face his roles and adventures as a survivor. He attains freedom and started his journey to campaign against slavery. His three steps of slavery, the escape and freedom correspond to the three parts of spiritual autobiography which include sin, the conversion and spiritual rebirth.
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