Olaudah Equiano: The Life Of Slavery In America

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Early modern slavery is typically defined as the forced labor of millions of Africans between the 16th and 19th centuries. It was filled with brutality, sickness, and inhumanity perpetrated by white, colonialist Europeans who were searching for wealth in a foreign land through cash crops and servitude. However, there was a different kind of slavery perpetrated in the African continent: servitude where “they were only prisoners of war, or…had been convicted of kidnapping or adultery” (Equiano, 30). Olaudah Equiano’s narrative, published in 1789, reveals a story of slavery perpetrated by his own people. This revelation brings to the light the difference in societal standing and ultimate economic worth of the individuals. The African continent was not unaccustomed to the idea of warfare, trading, and the keeping of slaves. In fact, these aspects of African life typically intertwined; as Equiano tells, the “stout mahogany-coloured men” would bring them “fire-arms, gunpowder…they always carry slaves through our land”, typically prisoners of war or criminals (Equiano, 30). The author himself was raised…show more content…
For one, the slavery seen in African communities was typically for the punishment of criminals, although there are exceptions, like Equiano’s own enslavement. However, despite his kidnapping and involuntary enslavement, he was treated as if he were free, with families doing “all they could to comfort me” and “carry[ing] me very often, when I was tired, either on their shoulders or on their backs” (Equiano, 31). It can be assumed that, by Equiano’s retelling, that even though he was held in servitude against his will, the reasoning for the owning of slaves was to pass them through to the coast to be taken to the Americas but without the malevolent feelings that the slaves would eventually encounter with the white

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