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Olaudah Equiano, Enlightenment Era
Olaudah Equiano is credited with surviving, and perhaps even thriving in, perilous circumstances that would have destroyed the best of men. His is a character study in complexity because he has an extremely trenchant mind, as manifested in his verbal prowess and in his business acumen, the latter of which was directly responsible for the purchasing of his own freedom from chattel slavery in the 18th century. However, that incisive mind of his was also indelibly stained with the perspective of Western supremacy, which eventually eradicated virtually all respect he had for his indigenous way of life. To his credit, he was able to overcome the personal horrors of slavery and, for the duration of the rest of his life, became a staunch advocate for the end of the institution that mercilessly wrenched him from his family and from his native perspective at a tender age.…… [Read More]
..really believe[d] the people could not have been saved" (Carretta, p. 129).
In conclusion, this is a fascinating man who was put into slavery and later became an educated, respected writer in his own time. And yet, even after publishing his book, the Interesting Narrative, critics in London doubted that he could have written it himself. A black man with such narrative skill was obviously a rarity. In the Monthly Review, the writer explained that "...it is not improbably that some English writer has assisted him in the compilement, or, at least, the correction of his book" (Carretta, p. 333). Looking back on those times, given slavery and racism, it is not hard to relate to the skepticism of Caucasian editors and critics as regards a black man's writing skills. But today, in 2008, with a black man poised to become president of the United States, will that ancient curse…… [Read More]
Equiano and Slavery
Equiano's main purpose in writing this Narrative was to inspire Parliament to abolish the African slave trade, which he stated at the beginning when he presented it in 1789. Part of his strategy was to describe himself as a humble "unlettered African" grateful to the West for obtaining knowledge of Christianity, liberalism, and humanitarian principles who is petitioning on behalf of his "suffering countryman" (p. 2). For the benefit of the gentlemen in Parliament at least, he describes himself as a very loyal English subject who has fought in its wars against France from a young age -- the Seven Years War in this case. His Calvinist-evangelical Protestantism was evidently very heartfelt and sincere, and in that respect his views were quite different from the deism, skepticism or even atheism more commonly associated with the Enlightenment. Equiano reacted quite sharply against such ideas when he hears them,…… [Read More]
5). Although the author was far from being fortunate to have been sold and bought and sold again, his ability to survive the sea passage that killed so many of his brethren testifies as much to his luck as to his mental and physical strength. Moreover, Equiano was young enough when he was first sold to the British to have still retained the fear of a child that might have prevented him from rebelling with as much fury as his older counterparts.
Equiano was lucky also in his encounters with whites in England and he notes in Chapter 6 that his master treated him "well." hile in Falmouth at twelve years old, he recounts the white children with whom he bonded, as well as one mother: "This woman behaved to me with great kindness and attention; and taught me every thing in the same manner as she did her own…… [Read More]
(Olaudah Equiano: A Critical iography) In the final analysis while there may be some controversy about various details and dates, the narrative in the book is generally accepted to be authentic and reveals a man's search for meaning and freedom.
The autobiography of Olaudah Equiano is a testament to the search for human freedom and a firm indictment of the practice of slavery. Whatever the debate it about its final authenticity this work provides us with a coherent insight into the reality of colonialism. As one critic states, the life story of Equiano gives us a "…picture of 18th-century Africa as a model of social harmony defiled by Western greed" as well as providing us with an"… eloquent argument against the barbarous slave trade. "(Olaudah Equiano: abolitionist and writer)
The autobiography of Olaudah Equiano, besides acting as a personal insight into one individual's experience, can also be interpreted…… [Read More]
Although Equiano portrays 'good' whites in his narrative, perhaps to make his condemnation of slavery more persuasive to his audience, he is also unsparing in his presentation of its horrors. African girls as young as ten are defiled, and men are branded with their master's initials to prevent them from escaping: "And yet in Montserrat I have seen a negro man staked to the ground, and cut most shockingly, and then his ears Cut off bit by bit" (206). Equiano, a converted Christian, stresses the departure from true Christian values in these actions by whites. He implies that his Christianity is a gift to him, but because white slavery is a betrayal of such values white cruelty is therefore even more horrifying a moral betrayal.
The lessons of what slavery was like, the mechanisms of the slave trade, and the particularly barbaric forms of slavery in the est Indies are…… [Read More]
He takes advantage of each new situation and has his fellow mariners and owners teach him new skills. He says that he often used his free time to "improve himself" (70). hen visiting a new island he speaks of his being able to go "about different parts of the island [ . . . ] gratifying [himself]" (75). He expresses a great amount of autonomy in these actions. He is free to choose his occupations and does so. Though inarguably he is in these places because of his being abducted and put into slavery, Equiano's independent and self-confident attitude makes him see each turn of events as being advantageous to him as an individual. He learns "many of the manoeuvurs [sic] of the ship" he sails on; the knowledge helps him gain a career as a sailor (53).
The extent of Equiano's belief in his freedom is mentioned throughout the…… [Read More]
The Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, The African ritten by Himself is a two-volume memoir of the author's being bought and sold like cargo during the heyday of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Divided into twelve chapters, The Life of Olauduh Equiano begins with the author's description of his own people and culture in est Africa. From the outset, Equiano uses a tone of humility and warns the reader that he understands that in writing his memoir is succumbing to a type of pride or vanity. He tells the reader exactly why he is writing his memoir: not to create a literary masterpiece but to share a story that he feels is truly unique even among Africans. "I believe there are few events in my life, which have not happened to many…did I consider myself a European I might say my sufferings were great: but when I…… [Read More]
Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
The two texts that are very famous for their representation of the Early Black Literature and that have now become a part of the English Literature course in many universities are The Interesting Narrative Of The Life Of Olaudah Equiano also known as Gustavus Vassa, The Africe, Written By Himself published in the year 1794 and The History of Mary Prince, which was written by Mary Prince and was first published in the year 1831 (Kohl). Both of these pieces of literature have been successful in attracting a huge deal of attention of the British public in order to achieve their objective of abolition. It should be remembered that these writings eventually resulted in the established of the legal rights of the people who had been enslaved. In this essay, we should shed light on both of these texts and see how the…… [Read More]
NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF OLAUDAH EQUIANO tells the tale of an educated slave. In this tale, the author wrote about his experiences in the New World as a kept man. The interesting thing about this story is that, while the author talks about the horrific treatment of slaves, he also describes the good experiences he had during this time.
Equiano was born in 1745 in an Ibo village in Nigeria. In 1756 he was kidnapped by ritish slave traders and taken to the West Indies. He eventually ended up on a Virginia Plantation. Equiano lived through the Seven-Year's War, which was one of the most important naval battles in history.
During this battle, he was owned by a ritish man, Lt. Michael Henry Pascal, who had bought him as a gift for his cousin in London. Equiano fought for the ritish during the seven-year war against France. Even though…… [Read More]
By stressing her humility, Wheatley was able to remind the reader that even if he was of a 'superior' race, class, or social status, all were ultimately small in the eyes of the Almighty. Bradstreet and Wheatley gently used their supposedly 'lower' status to remind viewers that everyone was humble in God's eyes. In her poem "To the university of Cambridge, in New England" Wheatley writes of Jesus: "When the whole human race by sin had fall'n, / He deign'd to die that they might rise again." While she begins her poem referencing her color and African origin in a "land of errors," ultimately all human beings are fallen and must be justified before God, black and white. Even more explicitly in her poem "On Being Brought from Africa to America," Wheatley writes: "Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain, / May be refin'd and join th'angelic train." Wheatley expresses gratitude…… [Read More]
Why a]re the dearest friends and relations now... prevented from cheering the gloom of slavery with the small comfort of being together and mingling their sufferings and sorrows? Why are parents to lose their children, brothers their sisters, or husbands their wives? Surely this is a new refinement in cruelty, which, while it has no advantage to atone for it, thus aggravates distress, and adds fresh horrors even to the wretchedness of slavery... I have even known them gratify their brutal passion with females not ten years old; and these abominations some of them practised to such scandalous excess, that one of our captains discharged the mate and others on that account." (Vol. 1 p. 206)
On the other hand, there is a paradoxical problem that probably undermines that hope: awareness of how much worse slaves were treated earlier in their lives could have also allowed some of…… [Read More]
It is evident that in his case, he tried to improve his condition by looking at his captors as providing him with guidance, and it is in this perception that Equiano's journey becomes meaningful, both literally and symbolically, as he eventually improved his status in life by educating himself after being a free man.
Bozeman (2003) considered Equiano's experience as beneficial and resulted to Equiano's changed worldview at how he looked at slavery and British society (his 'captors). Bozeman argued that Equiano's worldview became "fluid," wherein
…he is exceptional among his contemporary British brethren: not only is he able to stand both on the inside and outside of the window of British society, Equiano can move efficiently between the two…Accepting the essence of who Equiano is, in the end, is to acknowledge the reality he was a living oxymoron perpetuating a simply complex life (62).
It is this "fluid" worldview…… [Read More]
slavery in the eighteenth century as illustrated in the autobiography "The interesting narrative of the life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa the African."
Olaudah Equiano was an eminent writer from the colonial period. Equiano was actually born in Nigeria, who became the first black slave in America to write an autobiography. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa the African was first published in 1789. The book is an autobiography where Equiano tells us about the country he was captured from and also about the horrors and cruelties he had to bear because of his enslavement in the West Indies. Equiano, had converted to Christianity, but he was treated by fellow Christians in a very cruel "un-Christian" fashion.
From his famous autobiography, written in 1789,we learn that Olaudah Equiano was born in 1745 in Nigeria. He was kidnapped and sold into slavery…… [Read More]
Reception, Perception and Deception: The Genesis of Slavery
Progress has a way of making itself known to the world, even in a situation where there exists resistance. Considering Olaudah Equiano's "The Interesting Narrative, the issue of slavery throughout the colonial world was as much about assimilation as it was oppression. The conflict between cultures is shown in the nature of the cultural assumptions each makes concerning the other. The British are caught in a tunnel vision that doesn't allow for any considerations outside the belief that their way of life is superior and assume that the tribal culture will logically want to adapt to fit into the more modern way of life. They cannot accept the natives as equals, even as they verbalize their intention as one of attempting to create a hybrid culture. The Ibo, for their part, assume that the British will recognize and honor the way of…… [Read More]
This can be traced to the conservative view that lacks have in fact no real history in comparison to the richness and significance of European history. "As astonishing as it seems most of the prestigious academics and universities in Europe and America have ridiculed the idea that blacks have any substantive history."
This derogatory view has its roots as well in the colonial attitude that tended to see all lack people as inferior in status and 'ignorant' in order to justify the intrusion and invasion of their lands and territories.
In other words, the justification for conquest and what was in reality the theft of African land and wealth was provided to a great extent by the ' rewriting' of iblical texts. lacks were cast as 'heathen' people who had not achieved the enlightenment that the white group had attained through the ible and Christianity and therefore lacks were seen…… [Read More]
Finally, in that regard, it seems that the author's choice of Christopher as Tituba's betrayer may suggest that while racial, religious, and ethnic prejudices may have subsided substantially in modern Western society, a fundamental conflict still exists in which men cannot be trusted by women.
The Significance of the Book
The significance of the book is that it provides a personal account, albeit fictionalized, of the horrors of slavery, violent oppression, gender inequality that characterized Western civilization in the 17th century. The narrative illustrates the humanity and the personal experiences of slavery from the perspective of the slave instead of the usual historical perspective. It effectively highlights the state of injustice and fear that were the everyday reality of countless individuals who were ripped fro their families and societies, sold into slavery, and usually brutalized for the rest of their lives in servitude of those regarded as the founders…… [Read More]
The ideology of race only came to justify the existence of slavery after all 'equal' men were said to have inherent rights. Until then, virtually all peoples of the world had been enslaved at one point or another, even before the existence of 'races,' and inferiority as a category could be applied to the poor, to despised ethnicities like the Irish, or even to despised members of other tribes in Africa.
Fields, Barbara. "Presentation." Race: The Power of an Illusion. PBS ebsite. 2001. February 9, 2009. http://www.pbs.org/race/000_About/002_04-background-02-02.htm
Africa: A Voyage of Discovery with Basil Davidson. RM Arts, 1984.
Horton, James O. "Origin of race, slavery." Race: The Power of an Illusion. PBS ebsite. 2003.
February 9, 2009. http://www.pbs.org/race/000_About/002_04-background-02-04.htm
Obadina, Tunde. "Role of African Slave Traders." Edofolks. February 9, 2009. http://www.edofolks.com/html/pub157.htm
Smedley, Audrey. "Origin of the idea of race." Anthropology Newsletter. November 1997.
Reprinted 2003 on Race:…… [Read More]
Magic as a Central Theme in "Moses, Man of the Mountain"
There has been magic in the world since time began. Even in the scientific world that has little to do with metaphysics, magic has a significant place because how can a scientist explain the tiny bit of matter that became the universe unless they do so with magic. Throughout history it has had a significant place because there are many things about this world that people still cannot explain, so they reason that there must be some unseen force behind it. Zora Neale Hurston saw this in the Biblical story of Moses, as have many others. He was able to do wondrous things with the staff he carried, the rod of power (Hurston), because of its magic. This paper discusses a central theme, magic, as it is developed in Hurston's book "Moses: Man of the Mountain" from the perspective…… [Read More]
Harmony to Holocaust
The Portuguese reached the Gold Coast of Africa in 1439. At first, they were impressed with the culture they found. As they worked their way down the coast "[t]hey found people of varying cultures. Some lived in towns ruled by kings with nobility and courtiers very much like the medieval societies they left behind them." (Obadina). Many years later, a visitor from Holland was equally impressed and records his impressions of Benin City in 1600: "As you enter it, the town appears very great. You go into a great broad street, not paved, which seems to be seven or eight times broader than the Warmoes Street in Amsterdam... The houses in this town stand in good order, one close and even with the other, as the houses in Holland stand..." (qtd. In Obadina). Clearly, at this early stage, the Europeans had a fairly positive view of the…… [Read More]
constructing responses titles I listing. In response make show reference entry. (01) Discuss
One of the most powerful movements that transformed European society during the early modern era was the dissemination of information and the propagation of reading material due to Johannes Gutenberg's invention of the printing press around 1450 A.D. The movement that would prove to have the most impact upon society as a whole, however, was the imperialist movement that many credit to have originated with Columbus' journeys to the Americas, the first of which was in 1492. The imperialist movement would allow the appetite for power and conquering to expand beyond Europe and eventually encapsulate the entire globe. This movement is directly responsible for today's globalization, and the previous (and perhaps current) colonization and tyranny of many non-European nations. Another major movement during this time period was the beginning of the Protestant eformation, which began around 1517…… [Read More]
Atlantic Revolutions and How the Structure of the Atlantic World Created the Environment for These Revolutionary Movements to Form
The objective of this study is to examine the American, French, and Haitian Revolutions, known as the Atlantic Revolutions and to answer as to how the structure of the Atlantic World created the environment for these revolutionary movements to form. The North American Revolution took place between 1775 and 1878. The French Revolution took place between 1789 and 1815, and the Haitian Revolution between 1971 and 1804 and finally the Spanish American Revolutions between 1810 and 1825. These revolutions were found because of the issues of slavery, nations and nationalism, and the beginnings of feminism. In fact, the entire century from 1750 to 1850 was a century of revolutions. Political revolutions occurred in North America, France, Haiti, and Spanish South America. All of the revolutions were derived from ideas concerning Enlightenment.…… [Read More]