Project Director: Paul E. Lovejoy

Why Equiano’s World when the person was known as Gustavus Vassa in his own lifetime? The project focuses on the abolition movement and the ways in which this remarkable man has been remembered in history. The subject of the project is the life of Olaudah Equiano, alias Gustavus Vassa, the African, whose Interesting Narrative, published in 1789, has been credited as being influential in the abolition of the British slave trade, implemented in 1807. The autobiography is widely read today in English literature and Black Studies courses and remains in print in several popular editions. There are over 25,000 sites on the web relating to this most interesting African and black Briton. His story is a classic slave narrative, written in the richness of eighteenth-century literary style, by someone who did not begin to learn English until he was eleven. His autobiography went through nine editions in the early 1790s, the heady days influenced by Revolutionary France on those interested in British Parliamentary reform, the abolition of the slave trade, and the ending of slavery. Vassa was arguably the most influential person of African descent in London, at a time when the black community numbered perhaps 20,000, making London one of the largest “African” cities, if not the largest, in the world at the time.

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