The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano of Gustavus Vassa

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If Olaudah Equiano was born in South Carolina rather than Africa, then it would put his entire book into question whether the majority of his story is a lie or not. There is some evidence in his book that would make one question why Olaudah Equiano did some of his actions, but there are also reasons for what he did. If it is true that he was born in South Carolina, then, to a historian, this book is unreliable, and one can only trust parts of the book that coincide with more reliable outside sources about Equiano.

Although, a historian might not use this book as a reference since Equiano could possibly be lying, it was still a book that helped change the white man’s perspective of Africans and assisted in abolishing the slave trade. In the book The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano of Gustavus Vassa the African we are told that he was “born in 1745, situated in a charming fruitful vale, named Essaka” (Equiano, 1), but “ Historians discovered a 1759 baptism record and stated that Olaudah Equiano was born in South Carolina” (Lecture notes, 10/29).

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Although it may seem indecisive weather he was born in Africa or South Caroline since it says “he was up on board his Majesty’s ship the Preston in the year 1759” (Equiano, 37) , one can still make the assumption he was still born in Africa if they take a close look into the history of Olaudah Equiano’s time. First, the book directly tells us that “Equiano gives the date of birth as 1745, and though this can only be an approximation it was probably accurate within a year or so” (Equiano, p. X). This can lead one to believe that the dates in Equiano’s book are not exact and could be inaccurate within a year or so.

If the dates according to his book are not exact, then it is plausible that even though he was baptized in 1759, he still could have gone on his voyage to England since the dated are not precise. Second, Historians did find a baptismal record, from 1759, of Olaudah Equiano stating he was from South Carolina; however he could have easily lied about being born in South Carolina. It is a possibility that Equiano lied about being from South Carolina so that people would see him as a Creole and not an African slave.

He wanted to be seen as a Creole so that he would have a higher status than African slave, which gives him a much better chance to become free and give him significantly more control over his life compared to a slave. Since he knew English at a fairly young age, even though his English was sub-par, it was believable to the priest he was lying to. Finally, he lied about being Creole, because he wants to gain respect from the Europeans, especially the English, this is shown throughout his entire life that he strived to befriend and earn respect from the British.

Since he knew a little bit of the English Language, he could have found out that Britain was one of the super powers of the time and if he could gain their respect and his freedom, then he could influence a super power country to abolish the trading of slaves, which could lead to other countries to do the same. In fact, he published his book in 1789, right around the time that the idea of abolishing slave trade started to become an important topic within Britain. Even if everything in Olaudah Equiano’s book is not totally factual, it is still a great book to this day.

After his dismissal from his post in 1787 he completed his book and travelled through Britain selling copies and making speeches against the slave trade in a number of cities” (Equiano, p. XIII), this shows that during Equiano’s time he and his book were very influential in changing British people’s perspective about slavery and the slave trade. His book is still worth reading, but a historian will be very cautious in what they should and should not take as factual events, since some of the, or possibly most, of the dates in Equiano’s book are not precise by a couple of years.

Olaudah Equiano was born in Africa, and lied to the Church about being born in South Carolina so that he would be seen as a Creole to give him a better chance to become free and in control of his own life. Throughout Equiano’s life he saw how badly his fellow African people were being treated and he worked hard his entire life for himself to be free and help the slaves. Him being able to speak English by the time he was free, able to dress like a ormal British citizen, and being well educated showed Europeans that Africans were not just these uncivilized savages who could not change. Instead, he showed that if the Europeans gave their slaves similar chances as Equiano had, the Africans can change and become just like the Europeans which would make them be seen as equals. Having the Africans and the Europeans being seen as equals can be seen as one of Equiano’s goal so that slavery would end and the discrimination would stop, but slavery and discrimination will not be out lawed until much later.

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The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano of Gustavus Vassa. (2016, Nov 14). Retrieved from

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