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Olaudah Equiano, or, Gustavus Vassa, the African

Engraving of Olaudah Equiano, from the frontispiece of the Interesting Narrative

Title page of the 1789 edition of the Interesting Narrative

Olaudah Equiano (c.1745-1797) was an eighteenth-century African writer, antislavery activist, mariner, explorer, and Britain's first black civil servant.

According to his famous autobiography, written in 1789, Equiano was born in what is now Nigeria. Kidnapped and sold into slavery in childhood, he was taken as a slave to the New World. As a slave to a captain in the Royal Navy, and later to a Quaker merchant, he eventually earned the price of his own freedom by careful trading and saving. As a seaman, he travelled the world, including the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the Atlantic, and the Arctic, the latter in an abortive attempt to reach the North Pole.

Coming to London, he became involved in the movement to abolish the slave trade, an involvement which led him to be employed as Britain's first black civil servant and, later, to him writing and publishing The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa the African (1789) a strongly abolitionist autobiography. The book became a bestseller and, as well as furthering the anti-slavery cause, made Equiano a wealthy man. He married Susanna Cullen of Soham in Cambridgeshire in 1792, but died in London in March 1797.

These web pages aim to reflect the best in Equiano scholarship. Click on the links to find out more, and return to this site soon, as information is regularly updated.

Equiano's Interesting Narrative, Oxford University Press Edition

Equiano's Interesting Narrative was published in nine different editions between 1789 and 1794. Following the author's death, it appeared in several unauthorised nineteenth-century editions before going out of print until the 1960s. The book is now available in several editions, including a paperback edition with notes, index, and an introduction, edited by Brycchan Carey.

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About this Page

These pages are written and maintained by Brycchan Carey, an academic, author, and public speaker based in Northumberland in the north east of England.


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