African's Life, 1745-1797 (The Black Atlantic Series) by James Walvin

By James Walvin

The autobiography of Olaudah Equiano, a widespread 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 hundreds of thousands of Africans within the period of the transatlantic slave exchange. This examine makes an attempt to create a rounded portrait of the fellow at the back of the literary photograph, and to review Equiano within the context of Atlantic slavery.

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34 Interesting Narrative, p. 62. , p. 63. ), Commonwealth (Aarhus, 1971), pp. 20-1. This page intentionally left blank PART TWO VARIETIES OF SLAVERY This page intentionally left blank 3 A SLAVE AT SEA Landfall did not herald the end of the Africans' travels. Most were moved on, after sale, to other destinations; to plantations on the island, to another island, some still further to other distant colonies. Just when they must have thought life had settled down, they were again uprooted. Equiano was no exception.

36 An African's Life When he returned to sea, in the early 17605, Equiano's interest in self-improvement continued unabated. It was, however, bound up with a much broader ambition. He wanted to be free and to earn some money 'to enable me to get a good education; for I always had a great desire to be able at least to read and write'. Life at sea curiously afforded plenty of opportunities for such improvement. On board the Aetna in 1762, for example, the captain's clerk taught him to write 'and gave me a smattering of arithmetic as far as the rule of three'.

Officers were reared up from a young age in the skills and disciplines of seafaring, learning their trade the hard way and, in the process, missing out on what we might expect of normal childhood. Equiano now began to see a very different world, through the eyes and experiences of the Royal Navy, as he sailed between many of the points of international conflict in the Seven Years War (1756-63), experiencing at first-hand the dangers and the horrors of naval life in wartime. His ship flitted from one spot to another: off-shore France, ferrying people from Holland, transporting troops from Scotland and the Orkneys, and spending time in various English ports.

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