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Characteristic Olaudah Equiano

The abolition of the slave trade was one of the problems in the history of the world which placed on edge of war a lot of people. Freedom is one of the main desires of people and modern life in civilized countries is impossible without personal freedom. It is difficult to imagine that sometime earlier people were divided into two groups, those who belonged to masters and slaves. Slavery was one of the most painful problems and slaves tried to fight for their rights. Olaudah Equiano was one of the most famous and successful fighters for the abolition of the slave trade in Britain in the XVIII century.

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Olaudah Equiano’s book “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself” is one of the most debatable and contradicting pieces of writing. The book is autobiographical and describes the life of a simple slave who managed to escape from that fate and appeared to be free. The book is the first-person narration and all the feelings and emotions about Olaudah Equiano’s life are seen in this book. The book tells about his difficult life: how he was kidnapped by relatives and sold, about the difficult and sometimes unbearable life of slaves, about all sufferings and tortures, which he had to sustain and the magnificent freedom and literacy which he managed to obtain thanks to Robert King’s help.

Olaudah Equiano’s book “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by himself” influenced the social opinion about slavery through horrified realistic descriptions. This book created huge debates according to the fact whether it should be trusted or not. The experience which Olaudah Equiano received during his slavery and the literacy which he learned with Robert King helped him to be successful and to be able to help his countrymen. (Equiano 2004) Not long after his death, the law was adopted about the prohibition of the slave trade.

Nevertheless, there are a lot of people, who doubt the legitimacy of the events, described in the book. The main problem of the autobiography is the truth about Olaudah Equiano’s origin. The doubts are rather valid about the fact where he was born, either in Africa, how he writes, or in America. It is exact that Olaudah Equiano had African origin, but he may appear to be African-American by birth and African Britain by choice.

Vincent Carretta, one of the main investigators of Olaudah Equiano’s biography, is sure that he had African origin but was born far from Africa. Considering Carretta’s investigations, he found the notes about his baptizing where Olaudah Equiano’s origin is connected with South Carolina. There is no direct evidence about Olaudah Equiano’s African origin, in spite of his own words. (Carretta 2005) It may be offered that the description of the African origin of Olaudah Equiano was fabricated in order to put in the book the description of the voyage through the Atlantic Ocean. This idea was taken in order to support the movement against the slave trade.

So, Olaudah Equiano is a very interesting personality, who managed to make a great contribution to the movement against the slave trade by his own example. On the other hand, his personality is rather debatable as the work which he offered as autobiographical appeared to be out of line with reality. The only fact which is impossible to reject is his contribution to the abolition of the slave trade in Britain.

References

  1. Carretta, Vincent. Equiano, the African: biography of a self-made man. University of Georgia Press, 2005
  2. Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano Or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself Vol. I Kessinger Publishing, 2004

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Characteristic Olaudah Equiano'. 1 November.

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