14 Equiano

14 Equiano - Olaudah Equiano, THE INTERESTING NARRATIVE OF...

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Olaudah Equiano, THE INTERESTING NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF OLAUDAH EQUIANO, OR GUSTAVUS VASSA, THE AFRICAN. WRITTEN BY HIMSELF , 1789 Olaudah Equiano was born in inland West Africa, near the River Niger, around 1745. He probably belonged to the Igbo people. He was kidnapped and sold into slavery some time around 1755. One of his owners, a British naval captain, renamed him Gustavus Vassa after a king of Sweden. Equiano was taught to read and was baptized as a Christian in 1759. He was subsequently sold on to a Quaker merchant in Philadelphia, and bought his freedom for £40 in 1765. He returned to Britain and became a successful public speaker. He married in 1792 and had two daughters . Some historians have claimed that Equiano in fact made up large parts of his 1789 Interesting Narrative, and was in fact born in South Carolina, not Africa, but this is very much a minority view . CHAPTER I. That part of Africa, known by the name of Guinea, to which the trade for slaves is carried on, extends along the coast above 3,400 miles, from the Senegal to Angola, and includes a variety of kingdoms. Of these the most considerable is the kingdom of Benin … [where] I was born, in the year 1745, in a charming fruitful vale, named Essaka. The distance of this province from the capital of Benin and the sea coast must be very considerable; for I had never heard of white men or Europeans, nor of the sea: and our subjection to the king of Benin was little more than nominal; for every transaction of the government, as far as my slender observation extended, was conducted by the chiefs or elders of the place. The manners and government of a people who have little commerce with other countries are generally very simple; and the history of what passes in one family or village may serve as a specimen of a nation. My father was one of those elders or chiefs … Those chief men decided disputes and punished crimes; for which purpose they always assembled together. The proceedings were generally short; and in most cases the law of retaliation prevailed. I remember a man was brought before my father, and the other judges, for kidnapping a boy; and, although he was the son of a chief or senator, he was condemned to make recompense by a man or woman slave. Adultery, however, was sometimes punished with slavery or death; a punishment which I believe is inflicted on it throughout most of the nations of Africa: so sacred among them is the honour of the marriage bed, and so jealous are they of the fidelity of their wives … As our manners are simple, our luxuries are few. The dress of both sexes is nearly the same. It generally consists of a long piece of callico, or muslin, wrapped loosely round the body, somewhat in the form of a highland plaid … When our women are not employed with the men in tillage, their usual occupation is spinning and weaving cotton, which they afterwards dye, and make it into garments. They also manufacture earthen vessels, of which we have many kinds. Among the rest tobacco pipes, made after the
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14 Equiano - Olaudah Equiano, THE INTERESTING NARRATIVE OF...

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