Olaudah Equiano was born in 1745 in an area of Africa which is now Nigeria. At the age of eleven he was captured and brought into slavery. In his book, The Slave Trade, Equiano describes the slave trade during this time. He illustrates how he became a slave and how slaves were treated. Through his descriptions of his homeland and other aspects of his life, we gain insight into the state of world trade at that time.
Equiano's description of his homeland exemplifies "the Columbian Exchange" in operation. First of all, Equiano discusses how planters from the West Indies preferred slaves from Benin because of their ability and hardiness. This statement illustrates a connection between the Eastern Hemisphere and the Western Hemisphere. Equiano also describes some of the crops which were grown in his homeland. He mentions corn and tobacco which are both native to the Western Hemisphere. One can see an example of "the Columbian Exchange" through Equiano's experiences.
A network of trade can also be seen in Equiano's discussion of the marketplace of his homeland. He describes the presence of Oye-Eboe people at his village's marketplace. Oye-Eboe is translated as "red men living at a distance." These men would bring European goods such as guns and gunpowder along with hats, beads and dried fish to trade. The Oye-Eboe Equiano describes could actually be Aro people from the south of Isseke who were involved in the slave trade. The Aro would trade these goods for captives to be sold as slaves. Because these people had fish to trade, one can see they were from the coast, therefore, they most likely had direct contact with Europeans. The network of trade between Africa and Europe is mapped out by his...
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...e worst of it suffocated. Equiano was very ill and was able to spend a good deal of time on deck, where at least the air was a bit fresher. The crew of the ship were brutal to the slaves. They once tossed fresh fish overboard while the slaves begged to eat some. Equiano was treated like a human being while still in Africa, but like a wild animal on the British slave ship.
Through my reading of Equiano's memoirs, much of what I had known before was reinforced. However, there were a few things I didn't understand before. First, I didn't know before that Africa even used slave labor. I was also surprised to learn that African people were enslaved by other African people. I was glad to learn, however, that slavery was used as a form of punishment. I was also very surprised at the strong contrast between the treatment of slaves in Africa and in the Western Hemisphere.
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