As the term suggests, the life of Olaudah Equiano was one of those lives that when is narrated it is hard to believe. This is owing to the fact that the experiences he had, along with what he witnessed, been so cruel as well as mind-boggling. It is from his book accounting for his life that one can be able to see what slavery meant in its real terms. He was kidnapped at an age of about 11 years together with his sister by African kinsmen to the native slaveholders. In connection to this, he was then sold to European slave traders and passed through the Middle passage, the Atlantic passage of which he accounts what this really meant to the slaves along with the brutality and cruelty that they were subjected to (Equiano 48).
Along with this, it is his account as a slave in the West Indies and his work as a seaman in assistance to his master’s work during this time. It is also evident that he also participated in the seven years war of which he was buying freedom for himself only to be denied but sooner after in 1776 July he bought the freedom (Equiano 97). In consistent with this, he underwent a series of being sold and resold as a slave from one master to another. It was not until he was sold as a slave in London whereby he converted as a Christian and finally became one of the slave abolitionists in the movements of abolishing slavery (Equiano 170). Owing to what he wrote in his account as a slave, British lawmakers used it as bases to abolish slavery and bring freedom to slavery trade as well.
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Having provided a brief summary introduction of what the content of the book is all about, it is important at this point to bring out what slavery was like in Africa based on Equiano’s experiences and observations. According to Equiano’s account, Slavery in Africa was not as cruel as it was in the European world. For one, Equiano tries to bring out the way slavery was in Africa. The place in Africa whereby Equiano lived, he had not at all heard about a European or a white man. Also, he was not familiar with the sea along with the fact that subjection to the king of Benin was nominal to them (Equiano 31). The African tradition was marked by good manners and customs of the inhabitants that made them to hold respect for each other.
In the same line of thought, African tradition had an administration of justice that was ruled by Embrenche who were chiefs with Equiano’s father being one. At one incident he accounts for a chief’s son being punished to pay a slave man or woman for having kidnapped a boy. Marriage was highly honored and adultery was highly punished (Equiano 11). At the same time, unfaithfulness or rather adultery for the married was punished by slavery or death. Likewise, slaves were made to be part and parcel of the dowry that was given to a newly married couple. Notably, African slaveholders accommodated them in the houses together with the other members of the family.
Following this point, when Equiano was kidnapped, he came across a culture that was totally different from what he had been used to. Mannerism and treatment of slaves was so different. In this context, Equiano brings into view his experiences after being kidnapped and the time that he encountered a slave ship at the time that he arrived at the sea coast (Equiano 23). In line with this Equiano explains that the ship that he found was riding at the anchor waiting for its cargo of slaves from Africa. Shortly after, his astonishment was converted to terror and his thoughts, once he was carried aboard. In this case, he was handled and tossed to ensure that he was sound (Equiano 31). This was accomplished by some crew. The European language was so strange to the narrator that this combined with the complexion of those that took him as slave convinced him that he was in a world of evil spirits that would end up killing him.
In connection to this point, the meanest slavery that was practiced in Africa was preferred by the narrator. Within the ship through the middle passage there was copper that was boiling and a furnace that the blacks were inside chained together with each of them expressing dejection and sorrow (Equiano 32). This sent the narrator to a state of motionless and thus he fainted. This was just the beginning and so to articulate the end of the kind treatment that he had previously received while he exchanged masters along his journey within the six to seven months within the African continent.
Following this point, there was so much cruelty and mistreatment of the African slaves. Just as it was the case for all slaves, the middle passage for Equiano was a long and tough one, a nightmare if it may be said. Together with this, the inconceivable conditions of the slave’s hold were beyond human imaginations. In this regard, there were groans of those that were dying, shrieks of women under pain; there were also whippings by the slave holders (Equiano 33). In essence, each and every slave who went through the passage wished to commit suicide and preferred death than live as a slave.
Although it was not easy to manage to escape and drawn in the sea, those that did were envied as the torture was so great to bear. After the middle passage, the ship finally arrived in the Barbados located in West Indies (Equiano 97). This is to suggest that at this place buyers would purchase the slaves. After the purchase, however, the young Equiano had no one to buy him. Nonetheless, he was then taken to English colony of Virginia. At this time, he was purchased and put to labor. In less than duration of a month, he was then sold to a new master Michael Henry Pascal who was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy (Equiano 38). Under the command of this master, the narrator managed to get educated and traveled throughout the world on ships. West Indies and the American mainland, and the intercolonial slave trade, there was so much that the narrator witnessed.
A great difference was realized in this case. In the west Indies, slave trade was the normal way of life since those that had no plantations bought slaves in order to resale them to the ones that had plantations. Unlike the slavery in Africa that was more of companionship than labor, in the western world it was all about labor. The narrator speaks of some slave who was beaten until bones were broken just because he had left the pot to boil over (Equiano 165). Again, he reports of seeing a Virginia cook being muzzled. This was not the case in the African type of slavery as Africans reflected some kind of human treatment without brutality.
Additionally, slaves were being hung and then burnt with the example of the one that the narrator said was hung and burnt for trying to poison a cruel. In particular, the African slaves still retained some human nature but this was faced by cruelties that sent them to death as quick as possible. Within the seven years of War, the narrator thought that he would gain the once lost freedom that he lost after being abducted (Equiano 98). It is evident that wherever the narrator went brutality and suffering as well as inhuman acts being carried upon the Negroes was all what he witnessed (Equiano 165). This made him to even long for freedom. Even though he was treated differently in the situations he was in, what he witnessed send him to a state that kept him to have a quest for freedom.
Atlantic slave trade and slave system in the Western world differed so radically from that in Africa. This was the case owing to the fact that the African slavery was not brutal and it was that of being more of companionship than for labor. The African slaves in Africa were treated with kindness and some level of humanity while that in the western controlled world was led by quest for labor. In spite of the labor, the Europeans mistreated the many of them. For instance, those that went through the middle passage, many died on the way due to the torture they went through. Again, those that survived and were sold to work in the plantations were overworked without payment and severely punished for anything wrong they did whether minute or not. Again, mutilation and rape was so pronounced to the slaves (Equiano 144).
While he assisted Thomas Framer as a captain, he was well placed to witness firsthand, the atrocity and barbarity of slavery which he would later record in his narrative. As a slave abolitionist, in his letter to the public advertiser a few months before he wrote the narrative, he proposed interracial marriage as a solution to end slavery. In his book the narrator suggests that the solution to the slavery or rather what would lead to the abolition of slavery would be the unity of the manufacturers in the cause and as a result slavery would end (Equiano 178). He suggests that the unity of manufacturers would end slavery to the benefit of them all.
Nonetheless, those that trade in things that torture the slaves may not agree into it. More to this point, he suggests that if only blacks were left to stay in their homes they would double themselves and demand for manufactures would increase (Equiano 179). Based on this, he suggested letting slaves back to their homes as a solution to slavery. Generally, the solutions to slavery that the narrator offers in his book are to set the slaves free and let them return to their homeland. This is because they were brought to the land without their will and therefore returning them was presumably a good thing to do as at the same time it would be a universal benefit of all.
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