Olaudah Equiano: a Man of Many Customs
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Aloud Equation describes the life of a native African who was kidnapped from his homeland in the Oboe Province (which is now the Nigerian town of Sissies) at age eleven and thrown into the horrors of the African slave trade. Unlike most victims of the slave trade, Equation regained his freedom and experienced multiple facets Of life that no one could have expected.Equation became a man of diverse customs and values. However, due to the absence of written records’ it is often a matter of debate as to what his true origin really was. Throughout his autobiography, Aloud Equation defined himself as a native African. He used vivid illustrations of his homeland and experiences on the Middle Passage, and was even willing to defend the publics view of him as a man of Africa.
I personally define Equation as a European citizen according to his customs, personal desires, and behavior.Quinoa’s narrative played a key role in a variety of cultural, historical, and literary issues, therefore, the identification ND ultimately the validity of its author take on special importance. While reading The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Aloud Equation found it very apparent that Equation viewed himself as an African born individual. He illustrated his culture and customs as an Gobo African in vivid details of culture, religion, law, and agriculture. (43-56) He also described the atrocities of the Atlantic slave trade as if he had recently experienced them: stating the smell, appearance, and reaction of his fellow slaves. 64-68) “Although culturally Equation became “almost and Englishman,” embracing Christianity ND British customs, the experiences Equation shared with slaves and free people of color, and living in a world that did not differentiate between members of separate African communities, led him to consider himself also a son of Africa. ” (21 ) Equation embraced his African heritage throughout his life and even fought to uphold his reputation as such.
There was an instance where two anonymous notes appeared in London papers charging that he was not from Africa at all, but was actually born on the Danish island of SST.Choir in the Caribbean. Equation realized that this claim falsified the validity of his Narrative and immediately confronted and threatened those responsible for the papers with legal action, providing actual witnesses of the fact that upon his arrival in England he was only able to speak an African language (24-25). This reaction shows that Equation held much pride in his African identity and was willing defend it against those who claimed otherwise. However, there is evidence of significant authority that claims Equation may have fabricated the origins of his identity.There are two certain documents, covered by literary historian Vincent Garrett, that pinpoint the birthplace of Equation in South Carolina that keep modern day scholars and historians from absolute certainty of his actual birthplace. One of these documents was written on February 9, 1759 in the baptismal registry of SST.
Margarita’s Church in Westminster, England. It read, “Gustavo Vass (Aloud Equation) a Black born in Carolina 12 years old. ” (26) The second document was from Quinoa’s Arctic expedition in 1773. It claims that he was currently 28 years old and born in South Carolina.Neither of these findings is conclusive as to whether Equation was African or American-born, but they certainly leave plenty of room for uncertainty. (26-27) I personally define Equation as European, particularly an Englishman. Notions of English nationality are found in great abundance throughout the text.
Quinoa’s narrative repeatedly expresses his desire for a male English identity. He doesn’t view Englishmen as a racially exclusive nationality, but one that evokes an ethnic identity that Equation defines through Christianity, and citizenship.Two to three years after arriving n England Equation claimed “l no longer looked at them as spirits, but as men superior to us; and therefore had a stronger desire to resemble them; to imbibe their spirit, and imitate their manners therefore embraced every occasion of improvement; and every new thing that I observed I treasured up in my memory. ” (83) Here we see Quinoa’s envy for his new “superiors” and his wish to possess their culture and belongings. This desire strongly encouraged my opinion of Quinoa’s identity as European.My opinion was also influenced by Quinoa’s acculturation into English society and customs during his early teen years. “l could now speak English tolerably well, and I perfectly understood everything that was said.
I now not only felt myself quite easy with these new countrymen, but relished their society and manners. ” (83) It is clear that Equation identified his shipmates as his “countrymen” and personally enjoyed the interactions he had with each one of them. It was now between three and four years since I first came to England, a great part of which I had spent at sea; so that became inured to that service, ND began to consider myself as happily situated; for my master treated me always extremely well; and my attachment and gratitude to him were very great. From the various scenes I had beheld on ship-board, I soon grew a stranger to terror of every kind, and was, in that respect at least, almost an Englishman. ” (83) This passage shows that Equation developed an affectionate relationship with his master and also that their bond strengthened Quinoa’s identity as an adult man.Even more important, the identity Equation is trying to proclaim for myself as an adult man, “a stranger to terror of every kind”, is as a European. There are also certain actions and beliefs that Equation maintained that provoked the establishment of his European desires.
For instance, he believed the only manner towards proper adulthood is as an Englishman. Equation doesn’t come right out and say this but there is a point in the text where he noted that he considers himself very fortunate that he didn’t receive his family members’ tribal marking on his face, as is would have represented his entrance into mature Bib manhood. As was now amongst a people who ad not their faces scarred, like some of the African nations where had been, I was very glad that I did not let them ornament me in that manner (69). Also, during Quinoa’s voyage to Jamaica and the Mosquito Shore he went to see a Guinea’s doctor to purchase slaves to cultivate a plantation. He even chose them according to their native land in hopes that it is near his own. (189) The identification of Aloud Equation is of the utmost importance because of the critical role he played in the antislavery movement.Even the timing of a personable voice speaking out against slavery Was important cause it was a time when opposition to slavery was scattered throughout Britain and America and Quinoa’s narrative, along with other factors, helped assemble the movement into one of the greatest in British history.
It was Quinoa’s personal accounts and experiences that validated his narrative. He possessed the intelligence and capability to spread his ideas to men and women on all levels of British society. He also had the members of significant political authority to support his narrative to yet further its validity.Unfortunately, Equation never had the opportunity to bare witness to what he irked so hardly toward because the slave trade ended in both England and the United State ten years after his death (1807). Conclusively, it is very apparent that Aloud Equation distinguished himself as an African-born man, even though personally identify him as a man of European customs based on his desires, influences, and his acculturation into European society. Most importantly, Quinoa’s narrative played a key role as an abolitionist tool in the fight against slavery and the identity of its author deems it valid as a historical document.