|1745 (approx) |
Born into the
Ibo tribe in West Africa 'We are almost a
nation of dancers, musicians and poets.'
Age 10, captured by two men and a
woman, and sold as a slave several times. Saw a white person for the first
time and was put on a ship. Experienced the horrors of a slave ship
'the shrieks of the women and the groans
of the dying made a scene of horror.'
Arrived in Barbados and sold on
and taken to a plantation in North America 'Many merchants and planters came on board. We thought we might be
eaten by these ugly men.'
Bought by Michael Henry Pascal of
the Royal Navy as a present for his friends. Saw people reading on board
the ship 'I had often seen my master
reading and I had a great curiosity to talk to the books as I thought he
did. For that purpose I have often taken up a book and have talked to it
and then put my ears to it, when alone, in hopes that it would answer me;
and I have been very much concerned when I found it remained silent.'
Arrived in Falmouth, England, aged
12. Lived with gentlewomen as a slave and learned to read 'I have long wished to read and write and for this
purpose I took every opportunity to gain instruction.'
1757 - 1762
Based in England but mainly
worked on board ships as a slave and travelled to the
In the West Indies, sailing
between the islands. 'I have since often
seen in Jamaica and other islands free men villainously trepanned and held
in bondage. These things opened my mind to a new scene of horror to which
I had been before a stranger. Hitherto I had thought slavery dreadful, but
the state of a free negro is equally so at least, for they live in
constant alarm for their liberty.'
Bought freedom from slavery for
£40, aged 21 in Monserrat, and is asked to continue to work on board ship
as an able-bodied seaman. 'My intention
was to make a voyage or two to please my honoured patrons but I determined
that the year following, if it pleased God, I would see Old England once
After a shipwreck in the Bahamas
he purchased his passage to England. Became a hairdresser in London
'My wages which were £12 per year were not
sufficient. I thought it best to try the sea again in the quest of more
Now trained as a hairdresser,
Equiano continued to serve on board ships. Sailed in the Mediterranean, to
Turkey, Greece and Italy 'I was roused by
the sound of fame to seek new adventure, and to find towards the North
Pole, what our Creator never intended we should, a passage to India.'
Sailed to the Arctic, an
extraordinary venture in the 18th century 'the weather now became extremely cold; and we sailed between
north and east, which was our course, we saw many very high and curious
mountains of ice; and also a great number of very large whales, which used
to come close to our ship and blow the water up to a very great height in
Sailed back to the West Indies, to
Jamaica where he encountered Musquito Indians 'the women were ornamented with beads and fond of painting
themselves. the men also paint, even to excess, both their faces and
shirts: their favourite colour is red. The women generally cultivate the
ground, and the men are all fishermen and canoe makers.'
Returned to London and takes up
the campaign to abolish slavery. Acted as a commissary for the Sierra
Leone resettlement project 'May the time
come when the sable (black) people shall gratefully commemorate the
auspicious era of extensive freedom.'
Died aged 52. Buried in
SOURCE - The interesting narrative of the life of Olaudah Equiano or
Gustavas Vassa, the African 1789
adapted from a web site provided by the BBC Web