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Olaudah Equiano: Narrative Voice Slave Trade and the Middle Passage.

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Presentation on theme: "Olaudah Equiano: Narrative Voice Slave Trade and the Middle Passage."— Presentation transcript:

1 Olaudah Equiano: Narrative Voice Slave Trade and the Middle Passage

2 Background: African Slavery Europeans first arrived in Africa in 1441 Europeans first arrived in Africa in 1441 Slavery existed in Africa prior to this period Slavery existed in Africa prior to this period African slavery was different from European/American slavery African slavery was different from European/American slavery

3 Background: African Slavery African slavery lacked a racial dimension African slavery lacked a racial dimension In Africa, slaves could: marry, own property, and own other slaves In Africa, slaves could: marry, own property, and own other slaves African slavery ended after a certain number of years of servitude African slavery ended after a certain number of years of servitude Slaves were not passed on from generation to generation Slaves were not passed on from generation to generation

4 Background: American Slavery Initially, American slavery was a variation of indentured servitude and slaves would be freed after a certain number of years in service Initially, American slavery was a variation of indentured servitude and slaves would be freed after a certain number of years in service The English only enslaved “non-Christian” people The English only enslaved “non-Christian” people 1662: Virginia passes a law stating that the children of slaves would be slaves 1662: Virginia passes a law stating that the children of slaves would be slaves Slaves could not own property, marry, vote, be educated Slaves could not own property, marry, vote, be educated Slaves had no legal status Slaves had no legal status

5 Background: The Slave Trade 1641: Massachusetts becomes the first colony to recognize slavery as a legal institution. 1641: Massachusetts becomes the first colony to recognize slavery as a legal institution. 1680: The Royal African company transports 5000 African captives annually. 1680: The Royal African company transports 5000 African captives annually. By the 18th century, 45,000 Africans are transported annually on British ships. By the 18th century, 45,000 Africans are transported annually on British ships. Slaves packed like cargo between decks often had to lie in each other's feces, urine, and blood. Slaves packed like cargo between decks often had to lie in each other's feces, urine, and blood.

6 Background: Life on Ship Height of African slave trade: 88,800 Africans transported to New World each year. In all million people were taken from Africa and made slaves.

7 Barry Unsworth on the Middle Passages Q: Can you describe the Middle Passage? Q: Can you describe the Middle Passage? A: There is the diagram of a slave ship, showing precisely how the slaves themselves were stowed, how they were placed for the voyage when they were below decks or between decks. Typically there were two levels, one above the other, on either side of the ship, with a central passageway. They had about 18 inches head room, less than 2 feet head room. They couldn't sit. And because they were manacled, they couldn't really change position very easily at all, without hurting themselves or their companions. When the weather was rough they were kept below for a long period. It must have been a nightmare. In the mornings, after the end of periods of bad weather, when they could finally get down there, they would find two manacled together, one dead and one living. It was quite a common experience. I think that in terms of hell on earth, that must have been as near as anyone ever comes, I think, to it.

8 Olaudah Equiano Who are we looking for, who are we looking for? It's Equiano we're looking for. Has he gone to the stream? Let him come back. Has he gone to the farm? Let him return. It's Equiano we're looking for. - Kwa chant about the disappearance of an African boy, Equiano Who are we looking for, who are we looking for? It's Equiano we're looking for. Has he gone to the stream? Let him come back. Has he gone to the farm? Let him return. It's Equiano we're looking for. - Kwa chant about the disappearance of an African boy, Equiano

9 Three Part Structure of the Slave Narrative Enslavement Enslavement Escape Escape Freedom Freedom

10 Abolitionist Literature and Audience The tradition of Slave Autobiography and Abolitionist Literature begins with Olaudah Equiano’s Narrative. The tradition of Slave Autobiography and Abolitionist Literature begins with Olaudah Equiano’s Narrative. The specific reason these texts are written is to bring about political change. The specific reason these texts are written is to bring about political change.

11 Characteristics of Slave Narratives The Testimonial/Letter of Authenticity: the text begins with a letter from a white editor or prominent person verifying that the former slave has actually written the narrative The Testimonial/Letter of Authenticity: the text begins with a letter from a white editor or prominent person verifying that the former slave has actually written the narrative Equiano’s narrative is different in that he begins with an Epistle Dedicatory Equiano’s narrative is different in that he begins with an Epistle Dedicatory

12 Author’s name included somewhere in the title, the phrase “as written by him/herself,” and an identification of the author as a slave or African

13 Simple forthright style "I believe it is difficult for those who publish their own memoirs to escape the imputation of vanity... People generally think those memoirs only worthy to be read or remembered which abound in great striking events, those, in short, which in a high degree excite either admiration or pity; all others they consign to contempt or oblivion. It is therefore, I confess, not a little hazardous in a private and obscure individual, and a stranger too, thus to solicit the indulgent attention of the public, especially when I own I offer here the history of neither a saint, a hero, nor a tyrant. I believe there are few events in my life which have not happened to many; it is true the incidents of it are numerous, and, did I consider myself an European, I might say my sufferings were great; but when I compare my lot with that of most of my countrymen, I regard myself as a particular favorite of heaven, and acknowledge the mercies of Providence in every occurrence of my life. If, then, the following narrative does not appear sufficiently interesting to engage general attention, let my motive be some excuse for its publication." "I believe it is difficult for those who publish their own memoirs to escape the imputation of vanity... People generally think those memoirs only worthy to be read or remembered which abound in great striking events, those, in short, which in a high degree excite either admiration or pity; all others they consign to contempt or oblivion. It is therefore, I confess, not a little hazardous in a private and obscure individual, and a stranger too, thus to solicit the indulgent attention of the public, especially when I own I offer here the history of neither a saint, a hero, nor a tyrant. I believe there are few events in my life which have not happened to many; it is true the incidents of it are numerous, and, did I consider myself an European, I might say my sufferings were great; but when I compare my lot with that of most of my countrymen, I regard myself as a particular favorite of heaven, and acknowledge the mercies of Providence in every occurrence of my life. If, then, the following narrative does not appear sufficiently interesting to engage general attention, let my motive be some excuse for its publication."

14 Vivid Characters, Scenes of Great Violence, and Harrowing Escapes

15 Patterned after Biblical story of Moses and the Egyptian Captivity Slave Narratives have a religious overtone Slave Narratives have a religious overtone The ultimate goal of the slave is to escape to the “promised land” of freedom The ultimate goal of the slave is to escape to the “promised land” of freedom

16 Common Themes of the Slave Narrative Quest for freedom Quest for freedom Search for home Search for home Redemption and Salvation Redemption and Salvation Search for the deliverance from evil Search for the deliverance from evil Crossing of boundaries Crossing of boundaries

17 Themes in Equiano’s Narrative Freedom and Salvation Freedom and Salvation The Symbolic Power of Naming The Symbolic Power of Naming Identity Identity Racial Equality Racial Equality

18 Influences on Equiano’s Narrative Protestant Conversion Narrative Protestant Conversion Narrative Anthropology Anthropology Adventure Novels Adventure Novels Enlightenment Philosophy Enlightenment Philosophy

19 Activity Find an example of enslavement in the Equiano text. Find an example of enslavement in the Equiano text. Find an example of escape. Find an example of escape. Find an example of freedom. Find an example of freedom. Find an example of sentimentality. Find an example of sentimentality. Fin an example of each of the characteristics of slave narratives. Fin an example of each of the characteristics of slave narratives.


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