Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African

Description

This engraving shows the face and torso of Gustavus Vassa (c. 1745–1797), or Olaudah Equiano, holding a book. He was an abolitionist writer who claimed to be born in the Igbo-speaking area of the Bight of Biafra region. Kidnapped from his natal village in 1757 at about the age of 11 or 12, he was then transported to Barbados, where he briefly stayed - unsold - until he was taken to Virginia where he remained about a month. His new master, a British Naval officer, took him to London and gave him the name Gustavas Vassa, a name he preferred later in life. When in his mid-40s, he wrote his narrative "to arouse in Britain's Parliament a sense of compassion for the miseries which the slave-trade has entailed on my unfortunate countrymen." There is some debate among scholars if Vassa was actually born in Africa. See Vincent Carretta, ed., The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings, Olaudah Equiano (Penguin Books, 1995, rev. ed, 2003); and Paul E. Lovejoy, "Olaudah Equiano or Gustavas Vassa-What's in a Name?" Atlantic Studies 9 (2012), p. 165-184).

Source

Gustavus Vassa, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavas Vassa, the African. . . (London: T. Wilkens, et al., 1789 ), frontispiece.

Creator

Equiano, Olaudah or Gustavas Vassa

Language

English

Rights

Metadata is available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International. Image is in the public domain.

Identifier

I032

Spatial Coverage

Africa--Bight of Biafra
North America--Virginia
Europe--England--London

Citation

"Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African", Slavery Images: A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora, accessed September 19, 2020, http://www.slaveryimages.org/s/slaveryimages/item/2989
This engraving shows the face and torso of Gustavus Vassa (c. 1745–1797), or Olaudah Equiano, holding a book. He was an abolitionist writer who claimed to be born in the Igbo-speaking area of the Bight of Biafra region. Kidnapped from his natal village in 1757 at about the age of 11 or 12, he was then transported to Barbados, where he briefly stayed - unsold - until he was taken to Virginia where he remained about a month. His new master, a British Naval officer, took him to London and gave him the name Gustavas Vassa, a name he preferred later in life. When in his mid-40s, he wrote his narrative "to arouse in Britain's Parliament a sense of compassion for the miseries which the slave-trade has entailed on my unfortunate countrymen."  There is some debate among scholars if Vassa was actually born in Africa. See Vincent Carretta, ed., The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings, Olaudah Equiano (Penguin Books, 1995, rev. ed, 2003); and Paul E. Lovejoy, "Olaudah Equiano or Gustavas Vassa-What's in a Name?" Atlantic Studies 9 (2012), p. 165-184).
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