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A question mark: there is no surviving image of Cugoano

Quobna Ottobah Cugoano: a Former Slave Speaks Out

Quobna Ottobah Cugoano, usually known by the shorter form Ottobah Cugoano, was born in present-day Ghana in the 1750s. Kidnapped and taken into slavery, he worked on plantations in Grenada before being brought to England, where he obtained his freedom. He was baptised as 'John Stuart' in 1773, a name he continued to use over the next fifteen years, during which time he worked as a servant to the artist Richard Cosway. While working for Cosway he wrote his Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Commerce of the Human Species, the first directly abolitionist publication in English by an African, which was published in 1787. In London, he was a friend of Olaudah Equiano, and a neighbour of Ignatius Sancho. After publishing his work, he dropped out of the historical record, and we do not know where, when, or how he died. His work; part autobiography, part political treatise, and part Christian exegesis, has an enduring legacy as the first substantial anti-slavery text written in English by an African. Despite being employed by one of the most famous artists of his day, no attested image of Cugoano survives.


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The cover of the Penguin edition of the Thoughts and Sentiments


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