The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African – Olaudah Equiano
Download The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African ebook. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African, first published in 1789 in London, is the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano. The narrative is argued to be a variety of styles, such as a slavery narrative, travel narrative, and spiritual narrative. The book describes Equiano’s time spent in enslavement, and documents his attempts at becoming an independent man through his study of the Bible, and his eventual success in gaining his own freedom and in business thereafter.
Prior to Chapter 1, Equiano writes: “An invidious falsehood having appeared in the Oracle of the 25th, and the Star of the 27th of April 1792, with a view to hurt my character, and to discredit and prevent the sale of my Narrative.” Like many literary works written by black people during this time, Equiano’s work was discredited as a false presentation of his slavery experience. To combat these accusations, Equiano includes a set of letters written by white people who “knew me when I first arrived in England, and could speak no language but that of Africa.” In his article, Preface to Blackness: Text and Pretext Henry Louis Gates Jr. discusses the use of prefaces by black authors to humanize their being, which in turn made their work credible. In this section of the book, Equiano includes this preface to avoid further discrediting. Other notable works with a “preface to blackness” include the poems of Phyllis Wheatley.
Equiano opens his Narrative by explaining the struggle that comes with writing a memoir. He is very passionate about the hardships that memoir writers go through. He explains that they often have to defend themselves from those who remain critical about the truth of their work. He apologizes to his readers in advance for not having the most exciting story, but hopes that it serves to be helpful to other slaves in his position. He states, “I am neither a saint, a hero, nor a tyrant.” He begins his story with a description of his homeland and the district in which he was born. He was born in the kingdom of Benin. Benin was a part of Guinea. The specific district that he represented was Eboe, which is in the same area as what is now Nigeria. Within the district, Equiano was born in Essake, a small province, in 1745. He goes into detail concerning his district and the isolation of his province.
Eboe, Equiano’s district, was very established when it came to rules and laws of governing. Their system of marriage and law were strictly enforced. His father was an elder in the district, and he was in charge of punishing criminals and resolving issues of conflict within the society. Within the district, women were held to higher standards than men. Marriage was seen as extremely important. The bride’s family was responsible for providing gifts for the family of the husband, and the wife was seen as “owned by her husband”.
Dancing was a huge part of the culture within the kingdom. All dancing as separated into four divisions of groups of people, and they all represented an important part of life and an important event in life. The kingdom was made up of many musicians, singers, poets, dancers, and artists. The people of the kingdom lived a simple life. Nothing was luxurious. Clothes and homes were very plain and clean. The only type of luxuries in their eyes were perfumes and on occasions alcohol. Women were in charge of creating clothing for the men and women to wear. But, as far as occupation goes, agriculture was the primary occupation. The kingdom sat on rich soil, thus allowing for health food and abundant growth. Slaves were also present in the kingdom, but in Eboe, only slaves who were prisoners of war or convicted criminals were traded.
Some hardships came with an unusual amount of locusts and nonstop random wars with other districts. If another district’s chief waged war and won, then they would acquire all slaves, but in losses, the chief would be put to death. Religion was extremely important in the Equiano’s society. The people of Eboe believed in one “Creator”. They believed that the Creator lived in the sun and was in charge of major occurrences: life, death, and war. They believed that those who died transmigrated into spirits, but their friends and family who did not transmigrate protected them from evil spirits. They believed in circumcision. Equiano compared this practice of circumcision to that of the Jews.
Equiano goes on to explain the customs of his people. Children were named after events or virtues of some sort. Olaudah meant fortune, but it also served as a symbol of command of speech and his demanding voice. Two of the main themes of the Eboe religion were cleanliness and decency. Touching of women during their menstrual cycle and the touching of dead bodies were seen as unclean. As Equiano discusses his people, he explains the fear of poisons within the community. Snakes and plants contained poisons that were harmful to the Eboe people. He describes an instance where a snake once slithered through his legs without harming him. He considered himself extremely lucky.
Equiano makes numerous references to the similarity between the Jews and his people. Like the Jews, not only did his people practise circumcision, but they also practised sacrificing, burnt offerings, and purification. He explains how Abraham’s wife was African, and that the skin colour of Eboan Africans and modern Jews differs due to the climate difference. At the end of the first chapter, Equiano asserts that Africans were not inferior people. The Europeans saw them as inferior because they were ignorant of the European language, history, and customs. He explains that it is important to remember that the ancestors of the Europeans were once uncivilized and barbarians at one point or another. He states, “Understanding is not confined to feature or colour.”
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African ebook pdf, epub, mobi, prc
Olaudah Equiano (c. 1745 – 31 March 1797), known in his lifetime as Gustavus Vassa (/ˈvæsə/), was an Igbo man from the eastern part of present-day Nigeria. Enslaved as a child Equiano purchased his own freedom in 1766. He was a promient abolitionist in the British movement to end the Atlantic slave trade. His autobiography, published in 1789, helped in the creation of the Slave Trade Act 1807 which ended the African slave trade for Britain and its colonies.
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