HIST 4C/MARCUSE, WEEK 3: EQUIANO, Interesting Narrative


1745: Olaudah Equiano [O-lah-OO-dah eh-kwee-AH-no] born in Isseke, Nigeria.
1756: Kidnapped and taken on a slave ship to Barbados, then Virginia.
1757: Bought by British naval officer M.H. Pascal, renamed Gustavus Vassa, taken to England.
1758-1762: Served in British Navy -- Seven Years' War.
1763-1766: Worked for Quaker merchant Robert King in Montserrat (outer island in s. Caribbean)
1765: Heard revivalist George Whitfield preach.
1766: Purchased his freedom on July 11, at age 21 (p. 135).
1767: Shipwrecked in Bahamas. Sails for London.
1768: Sails to the Mediterranean.
1774: John Annis kidnapped by former master and taken to West Indies. Sails for Spain.
1775: Equiano on voyage to coast of Nicaragua with Dr. Irving to establish plantation.
1776: Leaves Mosquito Coast for London.
1781: Captain of slave ship Zong drowns 132 slaves in order to collect insurance.
1783-85: Sails to Wales, NY, and Philadelphia.
1786: Appointed Commissary to expedition to settle former slaves in Sierra Leone, Africa.
1789: Publishes autobiography Interesting Narrative
1791: Speaks in Dublin.
1792: Marries Susan Cullen; first daughter Anna Maria born 1793.
1795: Second daughter Johanna born 1795, Susan Cullen Vassa dies soon afterwards.
1797: Equiano dies, as does elder daughter Anna Maria.


  1. While he was enslaved, what control did Equiano have over his own fate?
  2. How did Equiano obtain his names?
  3. What Enlightenment ideas influenced Equiano? What parallels can you draw with Voltaire? How are these two writers different?
  4. How could slavery coexist with the ideals resulting from the French Revolution and the Enlightenment such as equality and liberty?
  5. Does Equiano portray himself as an African or British man?
  6. How might Equiano's tale been different if he had been a woman?
  7. Why did Equiano purchase his freedom instead of running away?
  8. Do you think that it was odd for Equiano to consider one of his owners his "greatest benefactor and friend"? (p. 147)

  9. --------------the following questions added to web version only-----------------
  10. While working for Robert King, Equiano often worked on ships that carryied slaves for sale. Why did he not write about those slaves in greater detail? (see, for example p. 124)
  11. Free blacks were often kidnapped and reenslaved (e.g. 121, 139, 158, 180). What recourse did they have?
  12. (Writing assignment questions) What arguments against slavery does Equiano make?
    What arguments for it does he refute?