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Olaudah Equiano is a poet who was known as Gustavus Vassa throughout his life. He was a writer and an abolitionist. He came from the Eboe region of the southern region. As a child, he was taken as a slave to the Caribbean and sold to a Royal Navy officer. Equiano became a freedman in the United Kingdom. After getting freedom, he participated in the abolitionist movement of Britain. At that time, there was huge African population in the UK which participated in the movement. One such group was the Sons of Africa of which Equiano was a member. He was a true fighter against the evil of slavery.
Olaudah Equiano wrote The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano which described his life in Nigeria and how he was enslaved. His childhood played a major role in shaping his mentality against the evil of slavery. This led to his participation in the abolitionist movement in the UK. His books became so famous and popular that they were translated in multiple languages like Dutch, German and Russian. There is a controversy related to the birth of Equiano as there are people who say that he was born in North America. His stories are at times, termed as fabricated.
However, Olaudah Equiano said that he was kidnapped when was of 11 and was sent to the Caribbean. After this, his fate took him to Virginia in the United States of America where he met with Michael Henry Pascal who was a sea captain. He accompanied Pascal in several of his journeys. Equiano was fortunate enough to receive education and he could buy his freedom in 1766. After his freedom, he settled in the UK and spoke about the tortures caused by British slave owners in the region of Jamaica. Equiano spoke against slavery and was accompanied by several abolitionists in the movement.
Olaudah Equiano became a huge and important figure in the UK and he was sent to Sierra Leone as a commissary of the Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor. He was replaced because he was concerned and was going to take some steps for the 500 to 600 slaves who were ill-treated in the country. His abolitionist movement was not only supported by the black population in the UK. Equiano was supported by British abolitionists like Hannah More and John Wesley who also assisted him in publishing his autobiography. They helped Equiano to collect evidences for the discriminations that took place against the slaves.
Olaudah Equiano was a proud African and professed about the African way of life. He criticized those Africans who trafficked young African boys and girls for slavery. Equiano was passionate about his works and his writings were based on realism. It is said that he was the one who initiated the discussion on slavery because of his speeches against slavery in which he often quoted his own life. Equiano said that it was the Western greed that gave rise to slavery and encouraged it. He was given the name Gustavus Vassa by Michael Henry Pascal, the captain with whom he travelled the word.
The final owner of Olaudah Equiano was an English merchant who let him buy his freedom for 40 pounds. It was a year salary of a teacher during that time. Equiano started his new life in England and started to work as a merchant and an explorer. He converted in Christianity in 1759. The abolitionists who supported his movement in the UK supported and encouraged him to publish his story so that people around the world got to know about the plight of young African children who got abducted and sold as slaves. His story became the story of other African children who became slaves.
The memoirs written by Olaudah Equiano were among the first books or memoirs written by a black immigrant. It became very famous in Europe. The second memoir also came out soon following the popularity of the first memoir. The books written by Equiano introduced its readers to the horrors of slavery. The citizens of the West did not have much idea of these horrors. These books helped structure the context of slavery in the minds of the Western population. The memoirs of Equiano played some role in the abolition of slavery in UK in 1807. Thus, his movement proved to be productive and successful.
Olaudah Equiano went to several countries to promote his book. He got married to a British woman and had two daughters. Equiano died in 1797. The tragic art was that when Equiano was small, he was sold by local slave traders who were themselves Africans and still could not empathize with him. These slave traders were busy pleasing their masters which was something which Equiano mentioned in his book. His life has always been a fight as he had to fight with slavery and the prejudice that came along with it. Equiano became a symbol of protest against slavery in the UK.
The reason that there is a controversy regarding his birth because there are no written records backing his claims. Questions also arise because he mentions two places in the Americas as his birthplace. Although his early years are in suspicion, the later events of his life can be verified. That is why, he is taken seriously despite of some of the events of his life being doubtful. People do not think much of his birth as they are sure that he has spent the early part of his life as a slave. Equiano was respected because of his struggles as a slave.
Hence, it can be seen that Olaudah Equiano was a writer and an abolitionist. According to his memoirs, he was born in southern Nigeria from where he was sent to Barbados after he was kidnapped when he was 11. He was kidnapped by local slave traders and was sold in Barbados as a slave. From there, he went to Virginia where his owner was a Royal Navy officer named Michael Henry Pascal. Equiano accompanied the officer in several journey. Later, he settled in England and started a huge abolitionist movement in the UK. He wrote his memoirs which became very popular and played some part in abolishing slavery in UK in 1807.