Olaudah Equiano

Olaudah Equiano



As it is my custom on a Monday morning to write on the news around the world, I actually wanted to but I was not feeling it, why you might ask? I had read up about the Imo state Governor Okorocha erecting a statue of the South African President in his state amidst all the Xenophobic killings in his country targeted majorly on Nigerians and nothing being done by his administration and that did not look like a worthy enough news for me, or was it about the Felabration. Yes he fought for the right of the people but was not really a role model to the youths of our time if we are to be honest to ourselves. Among other news I was not in that writing mood to promote this two news till a friend and brother by the name Sam told me to check Google’s Doodle and there staring at me was a Blackman and I knew it was about slave trade, but my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to check him up on Wikipedia. His name Olaudah Equiano and the amazing thing is, He is NIGERIAN!!! Oh Yes!!! I was surprised and I was moved into overdrive to write about this fine young man who far back as the 1700’s was making Nigeria proud already. We really need to get History back to our schools. So this is what I found, enjoy it.


Olaudah Equiano (c. 1745 – 31 March 1797), known in his lifetime as Gustavus Vassa  was a prominent Nigerian in London, a freed slave who supported the British movement to end the slave trade. His autobiography, published in 1789, helped in the creation of the Slave Trade Act 1807 which ended the African trade for Britain and its colonies.

In London, Equiano (identifying as Gustavus Vassa during his lifetime) was part of the Sons of Africa, an abolitionist group composed of prominent Africans living in Britain, and he was active among leaders of the anti-slave trade movement in the 1780s. He published his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1789), which depicted the horrors of slavery. It went through nine editions and aided passage of the British Slave Trade Act of 1807, which abolished the African slave trade.

As a free man, Equiano had a stressful life; he had suffered suicidal thoughts before he became a Protestant Christian and found peace in his faith. After settling in London, Equiano married an English woman named Susannah Cullen in 1792 and they had two daughters. He died in 1797 in London; his gravesite is unknown. Equiano’s death was recognized in American as well as by British newspapers. Plaques commemorating his life have been placed at buildings where he lived in London. Since the late 20th century, when his autobiography was published in a new edition, he has been increasingly studied by a range of scholars, including many from his supposed homeland of Nigeria.

Equiano recounted an incident when an attempted kidnapping of children was foiled by adults in his villages in Benin, Nigeria. When he was around the age of eleven, he and his sister were left alone to look after their family’s premises, as was common when adults went out of the house to work. They were both kidnapped and taken far away from their hometown of Etsako, separated, and sold to slave traders. After changing ownership several times, Equiano met his sister again, but they were separated and he was taken across a large river to the coast, where he was held by European slave traders. He was transported with 244 other enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to Barbados in the West Indies. He and a few other slaves were sent further away to the British colony of Virginia. Literary scholar Vincent Carretta argued in his 2005 biography of Equiano that the activist could have been born in colonial South Carolina rather than Africa based on Carretta’s discovery of a 1759 parish baptismal record that lists Equiano’s place of birth as Carolina and a 1773 ship’s muster that indicates South Carolina. A number of scholars agree with Carretta, while his conclusion is disputed by other scholars who believe the weight of evidence supports Equiano’s account of coming from an area near Bini.

In Virginia, Equiano was bought in 1754 by Michael Pascal, a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. Pascal renamed the boy “Gustavus Vassa,” after the Swedish noble who had become Gustav I of Sweden, king in the sixteenth century. Equiano had already been renamed twice: he was called Michael while onboard the slave ship that brought him to the Americas; and Jacob, by his first owner. This time Equiano refused and told his new owner that he would prefer to be called Jacob. His refusal, he says, “gained me many a cuff” – and eventually he submitted to the new name. He used this name for the rest of his life, including on all official records. He only used Equiano in his autobiography.

Pascal took Equiano with him when he returned to England, and had him accompany him as a valet during the Seven Years’ War with France. Also trained in seamanship, Equiano was expected to assist the ship’s crew in times of battle; his duty was to haul gunpowder to the gun decks. Pascal favoured Equiano and sent him to his sister-in-law in Great Britain, so that he could attend school and learn to read and write.

At this time, Equiano converted to Christianity. He was baptised in St Margaret’s, Westminster, in February 1759. His godparents were Mary Guerin and her brother, Maynard, who were cousins of his master Pascal. They had taken an interest in him and helped him to learn English. Later, when Equiano’s origins were questioned after his book was published, the Guerins testified to his lack of English when he first came to London.

Pascal sold Equiano to Captain James Doran of the Charming Sally at Gravesend, from where he was transported back to the Caribbean, to Montserrat, in the Leeward Islands. There he was sold to Robert King, an American Quaker merchant from Philadelphia who traded in the Caribbean.


That is the proud history of one of the sons of the soil. The never say die attitude of a Nigerian in him. A Nigerian who fought for what he believed in, not just any course but what was right. He did not allow what people said sway him, he did not allow people use him or look for the comfortable route but fought to abolish slavery in his time and now his name is remembered all around the world because he left his footprint in the sand of time. In our modern-day slavery of politicians and our so-called “democracy”. It is time to fight for what we believe in, not with guns or violence. But with our votes with our participation as worthy candidates and with our voices. Let us hold those we vote in accountable and if they are not performing recall this senators, remove this governors and chairmen and even President. We are using our taxpayer’s money to pay them, so it is only fair they make life better for the citizen. Like Equiano let us stand for what is right and do what is right. Have a blessed week.



Credit: Wikipedia; Thanks Sam also for the idea.


Categories: Articles

4 replies »

  1. There are heros like this them no erect their statue but people like zuma whose people jill their other brothers claiming xenophobic attack…


    • till we hold our politicians responsible this would go on, till we also become the change we seek this would continue. It is time we start doing our little in our corner to make the nation a better place… T21


  2. Thanks for this info maybe I wouldn’t know about the brave young man.
    I wonder what Rochas was thinking or which weed he was smoking before he put up that zuma statue, he hasn’t even paid pensions and salaries.
    The President hasn’t even condemned the Xenophobic attack on Nigerians in SA/India. Next thing they will erect the statue of the president of Indian
    Till Nigerians learn to stop accepting “N1000” as compensation, then they will be less indebted to the so called big men.


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