Olaudah Equiano was an African journalist and activist who wrote an 18th-century autobiography about his life as a slave. The autobiography, "The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African," was an important document for the British abolition movement.Continue Reading
Equiano's autobiography states that he was kidnapped with his sister when they were children, sold as slaves and transported to Virginia. Once he and his sister landed in Virginia, Lieutenant Michael Pascal, an officer for the Royal Navy, bought him and changed his name to Gustavus Vassa to honor the 16th-century king of Sweden. Equiano stayed with Pascal for eight years and learned to read and write during their travels. In London, Pascal sold Equiano to a ship captain who traveled to Montserrat.
Upon arriving in Montserrat, Equiano was bought by a merchant called Robert King. Equiano worked as a barber, valet and deckhand for King and made money by trading when he wasn't on duty. After three years of trading, Equiano bought his own freedom and spent the next two decades traveling across the world. Equiano first became a part of the abolition movement in 1786 in London. He joined the Sons of Africa, a group of a dozen black men who fought to abolish slavery.Learn more about Exploration & Imperialism