Olaudah Equiano

Olaudah Equiano

(1745- 31st March 1797)

  • He was kidnapped at the age of 11 along with his sister from his home in an Igbo village in South Eastern Nigeria. They were both separated and sold to slave traders. He was transported along the Atlantic Ocean to Barbados, West Indies. He was later transported to Virginia in the United States.
  • He was bought by Michael Pascal, a lieutenant of the Royal Navy. Pascal changed Olaudah’s name to Gustavus Vassa. Olaudah was taken to England where he served as Pascal’s valet in the seven years of war with France. Pascal grew fund of him, so he sent him to school to learn how to read and write in English.


  • He was baptised and converted to Christianity in February 1759. He was then sold to another captain who transported him back to the Caribbean. There he was sold to Robert King where he worked on shipping routes. Aside from working for king, Olaudah also engaged in trading and he saved the money to buy his freedom. In 1767, he bought his freedom and went to England where he worked at sea. In England he had an active social life, he joined debating societies and attended events.
  • In 1773, he joined the Royal Navy on an expedition to find the Northern route to India. He met Charles Irving (the man who developed a distillation process for sea water). Charles Irving recruited Olaudah to work on a sugar plantation in Central America where he had to select slaves and manage them as labourers, the plantation venture failed. This is an example of how some white people used blacks to enslave each other.
  • Olaudah continued to travel, he visited Philadelphia and New York. He joined the abolitionist movement in London in the 1780s. He told stories of his time in slavery to the white abolitionists who encouraged him to publish a memoir.
  • His memoirs provided a different look into slavery, he did not live the life of the typical slave people were used to hearing about. He never worked in the fields, he worked as a personal assistant to his masters, he was also well educated and worldly. The book did well in Sales and he travelled throughout England, Ireland and Scotland for speaking engagements.
  • He became a leading abolishionist in the 1780s and he also sought to improve the living conditions on Africans in Africa. He married an English woman called Susannah Cullen and together they had 2 daughters. His wife died in 1796 and he died a year later, at the age of 52.
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