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Olaudah Equiano

Inspired by Arthur Torrington.

I’d like us all to draw encouragement from this reminiscence -

Of Olaudah Equiano, an African man who was an abolitionist.

One day, as usual, he & his sister were outside innocently playing:

They were children of a high chief, is the true saying.

However, Equiano was kidnapped…. He was only around the age of ten;

His mother and father…. He was torn away from them.

He was very ill-treated… And sold many times,

But for what reason? He committed no crime.

Except of course, for being vulnerable, young & black,

And residing within an area where enemies would attack.

He recalls the large crowd of slave-owners rushing towards him -

But he had no idea of the trade he was now involved in.

Thereafter, he was sold on to an officer in the Royal Navy,

But compared to other enslaved, Equiano’s life out at sea was daisy.

He was renamed Gustavus Vassa, signifying his master’s ownership -

And he was sent to school in London, to improve his wit.

However, his schooling was interrupted by periods at sea -

Because the seven-year war with France happened to be.

Meanwhile, Equiano was baptized &, in the war, he helped to break down the enemy’s barriers;

His job was a powder monkey, in fact the correct term is, gunpowder carriers.

So clearly, he was entitled to his freedom & the same monetary rewards as the other sailors -

But his arrogant master broke his promise & refused to bestow him any financial favors.

Instead, he was cheated out of his money & sold on to another captain at sea -

And the key to his freedom, that, he could no longer see.

He was taken to Montserrat, this time to a Quaker named Robert King,

Fearful, & in oblivion to the good fortune it would bring.

Equiano’s intelligence was of the finest nature; therefore it could not be concealed.

Due to this fact, he was way too valuable to be wasted out in the fields.

As a result, he became a gauger, which was a highly responsible position -

But in Montserrat, he witnessed dreadful atrocities, persecution & immoral conditions.

This increased his incentive to seek his own independence.

Accordingly, he paid £40 - the equivalent to one year’s pay - for his freedom & transcendence.

He came back to England and came across his old master Pascal,

Who still refused to pay him - yes, his arrogance continued to swell.

Equiano went on to work as a hairdresser, but the pay was poor,

So he returned to the seas, where he was before.

In 1773, he joined an expedition to the North pole -

But on his return to London, he was in much fear for his soul.

Thereafter, in the Caribbean within a new slave plantation -

Equiano really tried to improve the workers’ situation,

By stopping punishment & providing decent accommodation.

But he was all too often robbed by people with criminal dedications.

After that, he returned to London and became involved in a Sierra Leone project.

However, he soon discovered that officials overseers exercised no morals or respect,

And that the sailors on board the ship were suffering great neglect.

Consequently, Equiano exposed the corruption and was dismissed, but he felt no regrets.

His next task was to write ‘The Interesting Narrative’ - a book on which his fame rests.

It called for the slave trade to be abolished, emphasizing facts that none could contest.

The book was a hugely successful bestseller; in fact by 1794, there were nine editions.

But alas, Equiano did not live to see the 1807 abolition.

He died, ten years before the slave trade was abolished in British ships;

40 years, before slavery was abolished in British colonies;

And 68 years before slavery ended in the United States.

Yes indeed! The slave trade finally received a well overdue break.

Now although Equiano did not live to see these events, there is no doubt

That his narrative played an important part in bringing them about.

There are many areas of Equiano’s life that I did not feature to the core,

So now, I leave you, with the incentive to explore what more is in store!

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