Olaudah Equiano’s Experience as a Young Boy Captured by Traders and Brought to a Slave Ship

Olaudah Equiano’s narrative “The Life of Olaudah Equiano” narrates the story of a young man who was put into slavery at a tender age of eleven years. African slave raiders captured the Equiano and forced him to march alongside other captives to the Niger River, where they traded him to the coastline and sold them to the European slave traders whose ship was sailing to West Indies. His experience at the coastal slave factory convinced him that he had entered into some sought of hell governed by evil spirits. He narrates about the stench that came from a lot of people being confined in a small room, making him sick and emotionally agitated. Consequently, the African and American captors provide him with liquor, however, he is not used to it and becomes more convinced about his next boom. He refused to eat and was whipped. His journey of slavery to freedom take place in the next ten years after he was captured. His experiences towards slavery are multifaceted and to some extent absurd. Eventually, he goes against the slavery institutions and appeals to end slavery using his biblical ideologies.

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Comparatively, Olaudah was well acquainted with the institution of slavery, since his upper-class family owned some slaves. He recalls how the use of slaves in his community was decent as they did not undertake more chores than other members, a similar type of food, similar clothing and lodging (Equiano 40-41). Moreover, some slaves had slaves under them as their property for their use (Equiano 41). On the contrary, slavery in the West Indies was different from what Olaudah was familiar with, in the sense that slaves were all confined in a small room that was filthy from the smell of unwashed bodies, with little to eat. As a result, the experience affected his ideology about slavery as a sense of humanity and class. The bondage was horrifying to the extent that he felt like disassociating England from the evils of slavery after disparaging the West Indies as the site of horror (Equiano 59).

In another instance, Equiano class views come along after seeing himself belonging to a higher class in the hand of African captives. He criticizes them as being uncivilized as he comments on them eating without washing their hands (Equiano 52). More so, he compares them with members of his community claiming that their women were not as modest as theirs since they ate, and slept with their men (Equiano 52).

In the instance, when Olaudah is first confronted by the slave ship and the white man, he tends to develop a perspective that all white men are evil just like other slaves figured them. Further, he asks other slaves whether they are not going to be eaten by the white men with horrible faces and red faces since he sees them as terrible beasts (Equiano 54). On the contrary, his fears subside after he figures out that he will not be eaten and lands himself a side business to make money for himself (Equiano 56). Besides, he gains some interest in religion and education, where he learns to read after being sent to school by the Miss Guerin’s (Equiano 64). Lastly, he used his biblical figures in marketplaces to shape and abolish slavery.


Works Cited

Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, written by himself. New York: St. Martin Press, 1995. Document.