Olaudah Equiano: An Insight on Slavery

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Examining primary sources can be a useful tool to provide partial insights of past events. Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative is an example of a primary source that provides insights on 18th century New World slavery. His autobiography takes the reader on a journey starting from his village in Africa through the slave trade to the West. He reveals many insights on slavery, but there are also limitations that do not provide the full picture, which is to be expected. Nevertheless, Equiano’s autobiography provides important insights on 18th century New World slavery through his experiences and the experiences of others.
Equiano begins his autobiography with his experiences of slavery at a young age in his village and on the middle passage. For example, in chapter 1 Equiano reveals that his village also had slaves, who became as such by being a prisoner of war, as a punishment for adultery, or being kidnapped. There was no systematic slavery and the slaves from this village were treated as human beings rather than as property. Equiano claims their treatment of slaves was not nearly as terrible compared to the slavery of the New World. Based on this insight, Africans were not new to the idea of slavery, but were shocked at how horribly different they were treated. Despite this insight, there is a limitation because Equiano wrote his autobiography as an older man, meaning that his childhood memories were not easily recollected. In addition, in chapter 2 Equiano was kidnapped and made his way to the coast and aboard a slave ship. Equiano felt astonished and scared in the new situation he was in with the strange men. Below the decks, he saw the dejection and sorrow on the faces of other slaves. However, the slaves tried their best ...

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...le to buy their freedom. Regardless, Equiano was able to relay his experiences that were not necessarily typical of slavery, but still occurred.
As a primary source, Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative provides partial insights on 18th century New World slavery. Equiano recounts the horrors of being kidnapped and traveling through the middle passage. In Montserrat, Equiano hears about the plantations and how slaves were physically and mentally abused. Slaves were taken advantage of and lived in fear since the law was not on their side. Even free slaves worried that their freedom would be taken from them and they would be forced back into slavery. As a source, there are some limitations since Equiano was an atypical slave who purchased his freedom and was a sailor. However, his experiences and the experiences of others are still valuable when examining slavery.
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