Thursday, December 7, 2006

The Equivocal Equiano

The Equivocal Equiano: Born in 1745 in the Igbo tribal region of what is modern day Nigeria, Olaudah Equiano published his Interesting Narrative in 1789. His book serves as one of the early firsthand testaments to the horrors of slavery. Writing in the midst of the transatlantic slave trade, Equiano demonstrated the brutality of slavery as a socioeconomic institution, and likewise, that it must be overcome to fashion a just society based on the ideals of liberty and equality for all. But the transatlantic slave trade had become an integral part of many European economies during the eighteenth century. In particular, Britain had a rather large stake in the slave trade given the numerous colonies it possessed throughout the Americas. Thus, undoing this deeply ingrained institution would be no easy task. Even so, Equiano's Interesting Narrative certainly provoked opposition to the slave trade, as it was eventually abolished by Britain in 1807 with its Parliament's passage of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act. And given that Equiano's book appeared in multiple editions throughout the Atlantic world, there was a growing debate among the literate public over the general morality of slavery.

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