by Rob Allen
Olaudah Equiano was born in Nigeria in 1745. Kidnapped at around the age of 10, he was first taken to the West Indies and then onto Virginia. Olaudah was sold to Captain Michael Henry Pascal.. Following the custom at the time of giving slaves the names of European heroes, Olaudah was renamed Gustavus Vassa, after a sixteenth century Swedish king.
Despite being sold to many slave masters in his life, Olaudah found support from his Pascal’s relatives, the Guerins, who lived in Greenwich. Through them, Olaudah was able to go to school. From about 1763, Olaudah started to give accounts of the slave trade in the West Indies. Examples of oppression, extortion and cruelty were noted in his books which give an insight into the lives of those who experienced it.
Olaudah used his knowledge in literacy and skills as a seaman to make enough money to buy back his freedom. In 1766, Olaudah was registered as a free man. To find out more about Olaudah’s story of courage and perseverance and for a first-hand account of the tribulations of the slave trade, visit the Greenwich Heritage’s Centre’s reference library to view “The Life of Olaudah Equiano” and Vincent Carretta’s “Olaudah Equiano – The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings.
Do you have a story to share? Leave it in the comments below, or call Greenwich Heritage Centre on 020 8854 2452.
© - Martin Collection - Greenwich Heritage Centre