February 17 Olaudah Equiano


This Black History Month I’m Grateful for Olaudah Equiano



“But is not the slave trade entirely a war with the heart of man? And
surely that which is begun by breaking down the barriers of virtue involves in
its continuance destruction to every principle, and buries all sentiments in


Olaudah Equiano



Equiano was a native Nigerian who was sold into slavery as a
child. His autobiography, The Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, is
often considered the founding document of the genre of slave narrative. Slaves
like Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglass followed in Equiano’s footsteps by
sharing their own stories.



Equaino’s harrowing tale of being kidnapped as a ten year
old helped introduce White Americans to some of the worst elements of the slave
trade. Reading this young man’s story of terror (he worried that any people who
stole other people were likely cannibals!) caused some to reject Northern
participation in the African slave trade.



Equiano’s storytelling was also an early indicator of the
intellectual ability of Blacks. When it became clear that Equiano wrote his own
story, some of the rationales for African enslavement were substantially
undercut. Although his fame in England far surpassed his limited recognition in
the United States, Equiano made important impacts that continue to resonate
into modern works like Alex Haley’s Roots.



Today I am grateful for Olaudah Equiano. You should be too.






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