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Unformatted text preview: 1Equiano: Reliable Authority on the Slave Trade World History to 1700 101 Brian Fairlie 11/15/05 Equiano's recollections about his time spent in bondage are shocking and recount firsthand the barbarity of slavers and the system of slavery as a whole. The detail in which his account is given reflects the accounts from other sources of the era. With the greatest of insight and detail, Equiano relates the horrors of being snatched from one's homeland, shipped off to another country, and sold off into slavery. Equiano's tale gives today's audiences an graphic account of what life was like for an African back in the 18th century. From his short time spent in his village in Africa, to the capture of both his sister and himself, and his entry into the system of slavery, As an actual slave who became educated and eventually earned his own freedom, Equiano describes each event in a firsthand account, as only one who actually experienced such events ever could. His incredible rise from a lowly slave to the author (an achievement of note all on its own in that age) one of the most respected narratives of all time. Equiano seems to attempt to give readers a glimpse of the cruel side of slavery to readers. He tells of a horrible odor that he encounters upon going below deck on the slave ship off the coast of Africa (56). He also mentions the ruthless floggings of slaves for such minor offenses as trying to eat a fish to supplement the meager diet they were surviving on (59). Equiano goes on to tell of how desperate some Africans were to escape slavery that they would jump into the sea and attempt to drown themselves (59). On the other hand, Equiano, in what seems to be an attempt to balance the picture of slavery that he was relating to the reader. His account does not consist entirely of the cruelties of slavery and the atrocities that he and others suffered. He also mentions the actions of his kinder masters and cherished friends, Richard Baker and the Indian prince (65 and 202, respectively) that he met during his travels. Equiano tells of the valuable skills he learned during his years in slavery (such as sailing and mechanical skills useful when onboard sailing vessels). These are skills that many slaves picked up over the years in involuntary servitude. The value of such an account is priceless to historians today. Such accounts are few in number and even fewer in accountability. Accounts from former slaves such as Boyrereau Brinch Frederick Douglass, and Mahomah Gardo Baquaqua are among the few that supply people with first hand accounts of the third side of slavery, contrary to that of the abolitionists and the slavers. The accounts of these individuals are certified as reliable sources of the aspects of slavery that which they recollect. Equiano's narrative, however, has recently been challenged in regards to certain parts of his account. The honesty of beginning of his story, basically his time spent in Africa, has been challenged by Vincent Carretta. He claims that Equiano was not born in Africa and thus the beginning of his narrative is completely fabricated. He uses a passenger log recording Equiano as claiming he was born in South Carolina ( ) as his proof. While this recent evidence may discredit the early portion of Equiano's tale, the rest of his story is accurate and is a reliable historical account of the slave trade. He may not have been born in Africa, nor sailed the Middle Passage to America, but his account of slavery after such events can be counted as historically accurate, for he was in fact a slave and his account of an extraordinary series of experiences and adventures can be independently verified at many points (Blackburn). Carter himself claims that the account still has literary and historical value in Equiano's narrative (Blackburn). Equiano would not be the first to have altered certain details of his autobiography. Robin Blackburn points out that even Frederick Douglass, a widely respected former slave, has given dissimilar variations of his fight with his cruel overseer, Covey (Blackburn). Blackburn proceeds to suggest that the words of anti-slavery campaigner Thomas Clarkson may have influenced Equiano while writing his narrative. Despite the challenge that Carretta has put forward against Equiano's narrative, the account remains a reliable and authoritative source on the slave trade. While the earlier portions of his narrative may not be truthful, the rest of the account can be backed up by independent sources from the period. This makes Equiano's account a valuable source of information to those trying to understand the slave trade from the most important point of view of all, the slave's himself. Works Cited
Blackburn, Robin. "The True Story of Equiano." The Nation.21 Nov. 2005. 15 Nov. 2005. <http://www.thenation.com/docprint.mhtml?i=20051121&s=blackburn>. Equiano, Olaudah. "The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings." Ed. Vincent Carretta. New York. Penguin. ...
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