Olaudah Equiano (ca. 1745-1797) The Interesting Narrative of the Life (1789)
Things to Consider:
Identity: Racial, Sexual, National
Attitudes toward Slavery: Consistent or Contradictory?
Religious Belief and the Formation of Attitudes toward
Treatment of Slaves: Determining Factors in Africa
Relationships between Men & Women, Black & White
Language: Appeals to God, Appeals to Logic
1772: Mansfield Case (No Slave could be forcibly
removed from England)
1773: Wheatley's Poems on Various Subjects
1775: American War for Independence begins
1783: American War for Independence ends
1789: French War for Independence begins
Equiano's Narrative published (England)
1791: Equiano's Narrative published
1793: France abolished slavery in St. Dominique
1802: Slavery reestablished by French under
1804: Haitian Independence
1807: Britain, U.S. abolish slave trade
1833: Slavery in British territories "abolished"
(As of Aug. 1, 1834, for those under six; others
become unpaid "Apprentices" for six year period)
1838: July 1: All British slaves freed
1863: Emancipation Proclamation in U.S.
1865: Thirteenth Amendment to U.S. Constitution
ratified, ending slavery
Discussion Questions: 1385:
Scholars have offered a theory that Equiano was
actually not born in Africa, but rather in South
Carolina. How does this possibility affect the
validity and importance of this text?
What literary genres does The Interesting Life
What is Equiano's main
purpose in this text?
What is the Middle Passage?
What does this experience involve for Equiano?
Describe Equiano's first
impression of white people. What factors contribute to this
Explain the whites' treatment
Describe what occurs at the
How does Equiano obtain his
Chapter One (Page #s refer to pdf): 6-7:
Describe the system of slavery practiced by Equiano's
community and in the surrounding communities.
Chapters Four (Web
What does Equiano mean when he says he has become "almost
an Englishman"? Why almost?
Other Discussion Questions:
Chapter One (Page #s refer to pdf): 2:
What is the purpose of this chapter?
Which aspects of his native culture relate to aspects of
other countries? Why is he making these comparisons?
What is libation? What does it involve? What
is its purpose?
Chapters Four & Five (Web
Why does it appear "as if it were no crime in the whites to
rob an innocent African girl of her virtue, but most heinous
in a black man only to gratify a passion of nature, where the
temptation was offered by one of a different color, though the
most abandoned woman of her species"?
(Norton Text): 1385:
Explain the significance of
the name Gustavus Vassa.
What is a windlass?
Explain the purpose of the
nettings on the ship.
Why does Equiano believe the
ship is magical?
What are necessary tubs?
Why do the whites flog the
man who has jumped overboard?
What is a quadrant?
What attitude toward
Christianity does Equiano express at the end of his
description of the auction?
Why is it significant for
Equiano to see a woman talking at the Quaker meeting?
Who is George Whitfield?
Explain what happens with the
What role does the captain
play in Equiano's securing of his freedom?