The Life of Olaudah Equiano

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Gildan Media Corporation, 16.07.2020 г. - 254 страници
A remarkable account of early slavery and later freedom, The Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African, Written By Himself, is the 1789 autobiography of former slave Olaudah Equiano. This memoir is a slave narrative, travel tale, and spiritual journey all-in-one. His life is a tale of terror as well as an exciting adventure.

This fascinating account describes Equiano's abduction from Africa at the age of ten and the years spent in labor on slave ships. It documents his attempts at becoming an independent man through his study of the Bible, and his eventual success in gaining his own freedom in 1766. What follows is success in business, in literacy, and a move to becoming an influential African advocate of abolishing the slave trade in Britain during the late 18th century. Equiano's degraded youth and respected later life in England is told with verve and sophistication in this spirited quest for fulfillment.

A real masterpiece and a book of historical importance, the book was one of the first widely read slave narratives and was a precursor to other such slave narratives as that of Frederick Douglass. The work has proven so influential in the study of African and African-American literature that it is frequently taught in both English literature and history classrooms in universities.

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One of the most remarkable figures in the history of African literature is Olaudah Equiano, who is also known as Gustavus Vassa. He was born into an Igbo community that he called Essaka, or most probably Isieke, in what is now the Ihiala local government area of the Anambra State of Nigeria. Captured and sold into slavery at the age of 12, he was taken to the West Indies. There he was resold to a British naval officer who helped him acquire an education and some nautical experience. When Equiano was beginning to consider himself a free man, he was unexpectedly sold again to a Philadelphia trader, for whom he undertook business trips to the West Indies. These trips enabled Equiano to make enough money to buy his freedom. As a free man, Equiano continued his vocation as a sailor and traveled extensively in Europe, Africa, and the Americas. He eventually joined the abolitionist movement in Great Britain, where he settled down as a respectable African European, married an English woman, and had two children. Equiano moved in high social circles, wrote and spoke frequently in various public media on abolition issues, and petitioned the British Parliament on the evils of slavery. But by far his most important contribution to the abolition movement was his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself, which was first published in London in 1789. Not only was The Interesting Narrative an eloquent diatribe against the evils of slavery; its early chapters presented a thoroughly idyllic picture of the culture, social life, and geographical environment of his Igbo home, which he describes as "a charming, fruitful vale." In the autobiography, Equiano refutes the detractions of African peoples in European and oriental literatures, religious dogmas, and philosophical and ethnographic writings. He emerges as the first spokesperson of pan-African nationalism, black consciousness, negritude, and a whole range of other contemporary African and African American intellectual movements. The Narrative is a mixture of factual ethnographic and historical details, debatable assertions, and outright fallacies; it is as mystifying as it is revealing. So powerful is its eighteenth-century rhetorical style that, despite the assertion in its title that it was "written by himself," few of his white contemporaries were convinced that such elegant prose and humane sentiments could be written by an African.

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