By James Walvin
The autobiography of Olaudah Equiano, a popular African in overdue 18th-century Britain, is quoted, anthologized and interpreted in dozens of books and articles. greater than any unmarried modern, Equiano speaks for the destiny of thousands of Africans within the period of the transatlantic slave exchange. This learn makes an attempt to create a rounded portrait of the guy at the back of the literary picture, and to check Equiano within the context of Atlantic slavery.
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Extra info for An African's Life: The Life and Times of Olaudah Equiano, 1745-1797
Gradually, African slaves began to replace the pioneering European (mainly Irish and Scottish) indentured labour. In the eighty years after 1690 perhaps 100,000 slaves had been imported, mainly from Africa. But unlike slaves in the Caribbean, the enslaved black population of the Chesapeake soon began to reproduce itself. 30 Equiano arrived, then, at the apogee of the Chesapeake's slave-based tobacco prosperity. When Equiano looked around his new North American home, a region dominated increasingly by local-born slaves, he saw few fellow Africans but he found 'not one soul who could talk to me'.
Literacy had become a critical element in the European definition of 'enlightenment' and 'civilization'. In the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and as educated Europeans took growing pride in their collective civilized attainments, literacy came to be seen as a distinguishing characteristic of civilization itself. To come from an illiterate society was proof of a person's position at the bottom of the human pile. It thus became a crude justification for slavery itself. Along with 'heathenism', the illiteracy of African cultures provided a justification for enslavement, and, perverse as it now seems, slavery was viewed as the means of translating the slave to a higher culture.
Source: Treating/or Slaves (ij()8). Wilberforce House, Kingston-upon-Hull City Museums and Archives. 13 For the white crew, life at sea was brutal, and often short (especially if they lingered for long on the African coast). Wayward sailors were put in irons and flogged, though such punitive treatment rarely deflected them from violating the slaves. ' In this violent environment, where human and physical outrages of the most appalling kind were the stuff of everyday shipboard life, slaves were as fearful as they were sick and depressed.
An African's Life: The Life and Times of Olaudah Equiano, 1745-1797 by James Walvin