African's Life, 1745-1797 (The Black Atlantic Series) by James Walvin

By James Walvin

The autobiography of Olaudah Equiano, a popular African in past due 18th-century Britain, is quoted, anthologized and interpreted in dozens of books and articles. greater than any unmarried modern, Equiano speaks for the destiny of thousands of Africans within the period of the transatlantic slave alternate. This research makes an attempt to create a rounded portrait of the guy at the back of the literary photograph, and to review Equiano within the context of Atlantic slavery.

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He had now lost his fear of the Europeans, helped by his improved grasp of English. ' He had become thoroughly acculturated. He felt 'almost an Englishman'. More than that, he not only felt 'quite easy with these new countrymen, but relished their society and manners'. Casting aside his initial worries that white people might merely be evil spirits, Equiano had come to think of them 'as men superior to us; and therefore I had the stronger desire to resemble them; to imbibe their spirit, and imitate their manners'.

34 Time and again in Africa, on the slave ship and now in 1757 in Virginia - Equiano (still only a boy) thought of dying. How many others shared his gloomy thoughts? Of course death often provided a quick release for enslaved Africans; so many were too far gone in their physical decline, too debilitated by their oceanic sufferings, to recover their strength and health. If Equiano was typical, it seems likely that many would have welcomed such a premature release from life's unimaginable and apparently endless sufferings.

All the remaining slaves were battened down below. Slaves who tried - and failed - to escape were always punished, yet such vigorous penalties failed to deter distressed slaves who could no longer tolerate the conditions. Time and again the Atlantic slave ships lost Africans overboard. The desperate, the disturbed, the dispirited, seized any opportunity to launch themselves into the sea. It often seemed the only solution to the living hell of the slave ships. 10 Even stripped of its abolitionist gloss, there is little in Equiano's account that contradicts recent historical research on the Middle Passage, and much which adds to it.

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