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The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano

Olaudah Equiano

Book Overview: 

The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, written in 1789, is the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano. It discusses his time spent in slavery, serving primarily on galleys, documents his attempts at becoming an independent man through his study of the Bible, and his eventual success in gaining his own freedom and in business thereafter. The book contains an interesting discussion of slavery in West Africa and illustrates how the experience differs from the dehumanizing slavery of the Americas. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano is also one of the first widely read slave narratives.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .ces of brutal cruelty; and this not only shewn towards us blacks, but also to some of the whites themselves. One white man in particular I saw, when we were permitted to be on deck, flogged so unmercifully with a large rope near the foremast, that he died in consequence of it; and they tossed him over the side as they would have done a brute. This made me fear these people the more; and I expected nothing less than to be treated in the same manner. I could not help expressing my fears and apprehensions to some of my countrymen: I asked them if these people had no country, but lived in this hollow place (the ship): they told me they did not, but came from a distant one. 'Then,' said I, 'how comes it in all our country we never heard of them?' They told me because they lived so very far off. I then asked where were their women? had they any like themselves? I was told they had: 'and why,' said I,'do we not see them?' they answered, because they were left behind. I asked how. . . Read More

Community Reviews

On a 2007 British stamp

This dry but affecting autobiography is an important progenitor of what would later become known, especially in American contexts, as the slave narrative. Behind the uninspiring title (‘You might as well call it Some Words on a Page,’ my wife said), Equiano's life was an extra

I will not in any way dispute the importance of Equiano and his narrative; he is a brilliant example of a black Atlantic figure, providing an insightful (and remarkably verifiable) account of the black experience amid a predominantly white society and a powerful polemic for the abolitionist cause.


This was assigned reading for university. It mostly seemed long. Although there is no doubt that Olaudah Equiano had a very interesting and testing life, and has achieved and experience much, my personal interest was lost at some moments. He travels a lot and this is a travel narrative, but I'm not

What a life!
The author apologises if the reader finds his story a bit dull, and maintains that it is only because he sticks strictly to the truth with no embellishments. But the truth sometimes beggars belief, and it is frankly astonishing that a life so full of wild adventure and changing fortunes

My wife was so excited when she found out I was reading this, because she says she now knows the worst possible answer to "What are you into?" "I'm pretty into 18th-century slave narratives." It's a good thing I'm already married, she says. Worst Tinder profile ever.

Anyway, so I'm pretty into 18th-c

Olaudah Equiano wrote his memoir in 1789 as a two-volume work. Following the publication of his book, he traveled throughout Great Britain as an abolitionist and author. He married Susanna Collen in 1792, and had two daughters. Equiano died in London in 1797.

The first part of the book describes Equi

Olaudah Equiano and his interesting narrative provide an insight into a time and situation that few people survived to record or recall, and those that did survive were rarely ever literate. For this reason, and so many others, Equiano (or Gustavus Vassa as he was later christened) has a unique stor

Generally regarded as one of the best slave narratives ever written, the book is Equiano describing his life, beginning with how he was kidnapped in Africa at age 11 and sold into slavery. The interesting thing about this book is that Equiano doesn't just survive the Middle Passage, but actually cro

I went through a variety of stages while reading this book. First, I was very interested. The opening 40 pages drew me in. I was taken with this small boy being ripped from everything he knew. Then, Gustavus Vassa's interesting life got really boring. The story itself was riveting, but the writing w

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