HISTORY RESEARCH PAPER
Largely, the experiences recorded in Olaudah Equiano’s autobiographical account, ‘The Interesting Narrative Gustavas Vassa, or Olaudah Equiano’, provides a typical depiction of the situation, which other African slaves sold and traded in the Americas had experienced. Equiano, born in 1745 in Nigeria, was kidnapped as a child and sold to slave traders and taken to Virginia where he worked on the plantations. The majority of Equiano’s time however was spent on the sea, under captains of slave ships and British navy vessels. In 1763 he was purchased by a Robert King, a Quaker merchant, who allowed him to participate in his own minor trading ventures that later gave him the means to purchase his own freedom. His freedom opened up the possibility of an informal western education, and the opportunity of extensive traveling in Europe and the Caribbean. It was not until 1789 that Equiano recorded his experiences in a two-volume autobiographical account, which was used in aid to the abolition of slavery. Equiano’s published biographical account can be seen to be largely representative of the experiences of the slaves in the Americas; particularly in his depiction of the trauma of the middle passage, and the situation of slaves on the plantations, and the treatment from their masters. However as Equiano was particularly fortunate to have humane and decent masters, many experiences and opportunities given to Equiano were far from typical to the situation of those the African slaves in the Americas.
In the process of Americanizing slaves, Berlin depicts of Richard “King” Carter doing so to his slaves in The Historicizing of the Slave Experience. The process involved the changing of their names so that they would be receptive to orders. Carter wanted to take away the African influence on his slaves, so that they would become less focused on their African roots. Another event that shaped the ...
When considering Olaudah Equiano’s account of his journey through the middle passage, his experience can largely be seen as typical to those of other African slaves in this situation, especially in terms of the emotional and physical sufferings that they endured. Equiano’s experience through the middle passage can be seen as a typical in his depiction of their emotional distress, and intense fear of their enslavers. This fear was one stemmed from African beliefs in witchcraft. It led them to think the Europeans were evil spirits, and that bad magic had captured them. Many first hand accounts also show that the slaves feared that the Europeans ‘feasted on human flesh’ and that they were being ‘fattened’ as food. Equiano’s own experiences are highly representative of the inhibiting fear the Africans felt towards the European traders. He mentions that almost immediately after boarding the vessel he was convinced he had ‘got into a world a world of bad spirits’. His fear of being eaten first appeared after viewing the ‘large furnace or copper boiling, and a multitude of black people of every description chained together’. After this he mentions he ‘no longer doubted’ his fate and that they ‘were to be eaten by these white men with horrible looks, red faces and loose hair’ In addition, Equiano’s experience through the middle passage is also representative of the collective African experience in their being force fed, and the punishments employed by the slave traders for refusing to eat.
Accounts of a French slaver, who imagined himself as compassionate in nature reported ‘the necessity he felt in forcing reluctant slaves to eat had sometimes resulted in breaking their teeth in order to insert a metal feeding device in their mouths.’ Other Captains would generally result to flogging or whipping their crew in response. Equiano’s account proves to be typical as he also shared similar experiences. When Equiano had refused to eat because of his feeling so ‘sick and low’ that he could not fathom it, he was punished by having his hands and feet bound, his body lain cross the windlass, and then ‘flogged severely’. Furthermore, Equiano’s experience shows the suicidal nature of the Africans on this journey across the middle passage. This general distress of the captured African people is evident as many sources comment on the state of depression that they were in. Slave ships had even to erect netting around the upper deck to prevent the slaves from leaping into the sea. Equiano’s account proves to be typical as he similarly expresses that he ‘wished for the last friend, death, to relieve’ him, and that even though he feared the waters, he would have ‘never-the less…got over the nettings and would have jumped over the side’ Therefore when considering these particular experiences of the Middle Passage, we can say that his representation of their emotional traumas, and physical sufferings were largely typical of those experienced by other slaves during the Atlantic slave trade.
Oppression and cruelty; just two of the many words used to describe slavery. However no word or words can be used to truly illustrate the hardships and tough times that the slaves went through. In the time of slavery, innocent people were taken from their homes and separated from their families to be sold as workers to people around the world. They did not just work, similar to modern times, they ...
The experiences of Olaudah Equiano recorded largely portray a typical African slave experience with respect to life on the plantations and the treatments of slaves from their masters in the Americas. Although Equiano only spent a small portion of his time as a slave in the Virginia plantations, his time as a slave for British captain Robert King, ensured he witnessed a more representative treatment of slaves from their masters in the West Indies of North America. An experience that was far more brutal than his time as a slave on the plantation. However his own experience working on a plantation proves to be typical when concerning the types of work he was required to do whilst in Virginia. Slaves were required to work in several areas of the plantation, and for their masters. The tasks and labors were mainly physical, and agricultural, and would spend the majority of their days on the land. Equiano shows that he experienced this agricultural form of labor; whilst in Virginia as he labored ‘for a few weeks weeding grass and gathering stones’. In the West Indies, Equiano reports having witnessed a more cruel type of treatment on the plantations, aside from their physical labor. Owners of the slaves on these plantations were known to react harshly and cruelly for petty crimes such as eating sugar cane, or absence from work.
Equiano viewpoint and experience in the West Indies is supportive of this when he says that ‘many times he had seen these unfortunate wretches beaten if they asked for their pay, often severely flogged…I have even seen a negro beaten till some of his bones were broken, for only letting a pot boil over’ It was typical also for slaves to be treated as cattle or as other livestock, particularly in the Americas. Equiano’s experiences agree also that this attitude in the Americas was common. Equiano recalls this as he states ‘it was very common on the islands…. for the slaves to be branded with the first initial of their master’s name and a load of heavy iron hooks around their necks’. Treatments such as those usually associated with which is cattle and other livestock. The cruelty of the masters and their labor on the plantations as emphasized in Equiano’s autobiography, when considering other accounts, can be seen as a typical representation, of the inhumanity directed the slaves.
... own kind and the inhumane treatment they experience. But all in all Olaudah Equiano unlike many other slaves kept his composure and his humbleness ... all jobs that Olaudah Equiano held during his lifetime. He has been called the "most influential African writer in both Africa, America and Britain ...
However, not all experiences, which Olaudah Equiano recorded in his two-part autobiography, are typical of the general African slave population in the Americas, as he had been given opportunities that were not commonly available for the average slave. Equiano, although witnessed a great deal of painful infliction on his fellow slaves, he was fortunate to not suffer many of those, which he witnessed or heard accounts of. Equiano’s experience is particularly unrepresentative of the situation of the African slaves in America, in his opportunity to receive an education. Equiano states that his Quaker master, Rodney King, who said to him that when they returned to Philadelphia, he would ‘put me to school and fit me for a clerk.’ This education he was able to obtain was not a typical opportunity given to most slaves, in fact most masters preferred to keep their slaves uneducated. In addition to this Equiano’s account is not typical of the African slave situation in the Americas with respect to Equiano’s ability to obtain money from his own trading ventures, to where he was able to buy his own freedom and become a free man. Equiano comments on his trading ventures in his ownership of several masters, and was fortunate with to be granted his freedom Rodney King, after he exclaims that he ‘got the money very honestly, and with much industry.’Although Equiano was not the only African who was to become free, previous to chattel type slavery in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it was not a typical function of slave life to acquire their freedom. Equiano was unique in that even after his obtaining his funds, allowed him his freedom. In that respect Equiano’s good fortune with his master, his education and his freedom, make his experiences less typical to the situation of African slaves in the Americas as a collective.
Throughout reading “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass”, one does not simply learn and discover the everyday average slave life style, Douglass incorporates his own mental philosophies as to how slavery and society is ran during that time by telling it from his own first person prospective, and he also uncovers the evils that slavery hides. Slaves during the antebellum of the ...
To conclude, the autobiographical account of Olaudah Equiano was largely a typical representation of the situation of the African slaves in the Americas. Equiano’s experiences appeared to be particularly typical in his memories of the middle passage with respect to his emotional sufferings and the brutal conditions traveling from Nigeria to the West Indies. His experiences of slave labor and witnessing brutal treatment from their masters on the plantations were also representative of slavery in the Americas. However Equiano’s ‘good fortune’ in being bought by respectful and humane masters in the later half of his captivity, produced opportunities which were abnormal for most slaves in the Americas, lessening the degree to which account can be considered typical. In saying that his autobiographical account remains a faithful record of the events in the life of Olaudah Equiano, which offers fantastic insight into the situation slaves in the Americas.
1. Equiano Olaudah. “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavas Vassa, The African, written by himself” Leeds: James Nichols, 1814
2. Ramsey, James “Essay on the Treatment and Conversion of Slaves in the British Sugar Colonies” London: James Phillips, 1784
3. Frederick, Francis, “Fifty Years of Slavery” Baltimore: J. W. Woods, Printer, 1869.
4. Falconbridge, Alexander, “An Account of the Slave Trade on the Coast of Africa”, London: J.Philips, 1788,
5. David Ralston, Richard. “The Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavas Vassa the African by Olaudah Equiano” African Historical Studies,4 (1971): 168-17
6. Northrup, David. Africa’s Discovery of Europe: 1450-1850. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001, 107-25 and 136-38.
Olaudah Equiano Olaudah Equiano was an African American that fell into slavery. He was forced like many other African Americans during the 17 th and 18 th century. In the short story about Olaudah Equiano, it tells about his life and what he went through being a slave. The Narrative has some similar things that we went over in class. I am going to discuss a few topics about Equiano and other ...
7. Williamson, Jenn. Documenting the America South. May 06, 2012, North Amerian Slave Narratives, University Library, North Carolina. http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/equiano1/summary.html
8. Nash, Gary B. c1992, ‘The African Response to slavery’ in Red, white, and Black: The peoples of early North America, Pretenice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J, pp.172-200
[ 1 ]. Williamson, Documenting the America South
[ 2 ]. Northrup, David. Africa’s Discovery of Europe: 1450-1850. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, pg.115
[ 3 ]. Northrup, David. “Africa’s Discovery of Europe” 115
[ 4 ]. Equiano Olaudah. “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavas Vassa, The African, written by himself” Leeds: James Nichols, 1814, pg. 31
[ 5 ]. Equiano Olaudah. “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah pg. 31
[ 6 ]. Equiano Olaudah. “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah pg. 31
[ 7 ]. Northrup, David. “Africa’s Discovery of Europe”116
[ 8 ]. Falconbridge, Alexander, “An Account of the Slave Trade on the Coast of Africa”, London: J.Philips, (1788) 25
[ 9 ]. Equiano Olaudah. “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah pg. 33
[ 10 ]. Northrup, David. “Africa’s Discovery of Europe” 116
[ 11 ]. Northrup, David. “Africa’s Discovery of Europe” 116
[ 12 ]. Equiano Olaudah. “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah pg. 33
[ 13 ]. Nash, Gary B. c1992, ‘The African Response to slavery’ in Red, white, and Black: The peoples of early North America: 1992: pg.194
[ 14 ]. Equiano Olaudah. “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah pg. 41
[ 15 ]. Equiano Olaudah. “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah pg. 87
[ 16 ]. James Ramsey, “Essay on the Treatment and Conversion of the Slaves in the British Sugar Colonies’ pg 1.
[ 17 ]. Equiano Olaudah. “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah pg. 87
[ 18 ]. Frederick, Francis, “Fifty Years of Slavery” (Baltimore: J. W. Woods, Printer1869)
[ 19 ]. Equiano, Olaudah. “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah pg. 95
... Angelo. Surprising Narrative: Olaudah Equiano and the Beginnings of Black Autobiography. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1987. Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano. The Norton ... Anthology of American Literature. Nina Baym, Ronald Gottesman, Laurence B. Holland, David ...
[ 20 ]. David Ralston, Richard. “The Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavas Vassa the African by Olaudah Equiano” African Historical Studies,4 (1971): 165
[ 21 ]. Equiano, Olaudah. “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah pg. 85
[ 22 ]. Equiano Olaudah. “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah pg. 87
[ 23 ]. Equiano Olaudah. “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah pg. 125
[ 24 ]. Equiano Olaudah. “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah pg. 126