Olaudah Equiano/Gustavas Vassa, 1789

Click on the image to open a larger version in a new window.
previous image return to thumbnails next image

If you are interested in using this image, please consult Acknowledging the Website.

This record was last updated on 17 Mar 2016

Image Reference

The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavas Vassa, the African. Written by Himself (London, 1789 ).

Engraving. Frontispiece from first edition of Equiano's Narrative. Equiano, an Igbo from present-day eastern Nigeria, was kidnapped from his natal village. In 1757, at about the age of 11 or 12, he was transported from the Bight of Biafra to Barbados, where he briefly stayed--unsold-- and then was taken to Virginia where he remained about a month. His new master, a British Naval officer, took him to London and gave him the name Gustavas Vassa, a name he apparently preferred in later life. When in his mid-forties, he wrote his "narrative" to arouse in Britain's Parliament "a sense of compassion for the miseries which the slave-trade has entailed on my unfortunate countrymen." For the definitive modern edition of Equiano's Narrative, see Vincent Carretta, ed., The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings, Olaudah Equiano (Penguin Books, 1995, rev. ed, 2003). There is some debate among scholars if Equino was actually born in Africa. For more details on his life, see Vincent Carretta, Equiano The African (University of Georgia Press, 2005) and Paul E. Lovejoy, Olaudah Equiano or Gustavas Vassa-What's in a Name? (Atlantic Studies [vol. 9, 2012], pp. 165-184).