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News & Views

Celebrating Black Lives: Equiano

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

We mark Black History Month with a profile of the former slave and Abolitionist Olaudah Equiano.

“My life had lost its relish when liberty was gone.”

Olaudah Equiano (c. 1745–1797) was an enslaved man who managed to buy his own freedom, published his personal memoirs and campaigned to abolish the slave trade. He was born in what is now Nigeria and sold into slavery when he was 11 years old. Having been traded in Barbados and Virginia, he spent eight years travelling the world as the slave to a British Royal Navy officer who renamed him Gustavus Vassa. His final master, an English merchant in Montserrat, let him buy his freedom for £40. That would have been almost a year’s salary for a teacher, but he managed to make the amount in three years through trading on the side.

Equiano worked as an explorer and merchant for 20 years. He eventually settled in England, married an English woman and had two children. Equiano was encouraged to publish his memoirs by fellow Abolitionists in 1789. These compelling accounts of the horrors of slavery helped sway public opinion. But Equiano died in 1797, 10 years before Britain formally abolished the trade in 1807.

Each month we mark the significant life of a person of colour as a positive statement and a contribution to redressing historical imbalances in our society.

On Saturday 9 October at 2pm, the Chapel is hosting an immersive theatre performance telling the story of the Abolitionists: ‘Breaking the Silence of the Slave Trade. Find out more and reserve your free seat.


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