Famous People from the Cambridgeshire

Olaudah Equino or Gustavus Vassa b.1745 m.1792 d.1797

Anti-Slave Activist who married Susannah Cullen (from Fordham) at St Andrew's Church, Soham . Olaudah Equiano composed the first-ever slave autobiography as a freed slave living in England. His autobiography, The Life of Gustavus Vassa (Gustavus Vassa was one of the names given to him by his owners), became a phenomenal best-seller in its time, both in England and America, and fueled a young but growing anti-slavery movement. Equiano narrated his life from boyhood onwards; he was born in a gold-coast African village, Isseke, Nigeria,. His father was one of the chiefs in the village. In 1756, age eleven, Equino and his sister were kidnapped, by two men and a woman, and sold into slavery to another village, moved to yet another village as a slave, and finally captured and sold to European slavers. In his autobiography he narrates his trials as a slave in Africa and concludes with his sea-passage to America, a particularly inhumane practice which killed perhaps 50% of the Africans that were captured by or sold to European slavers. Equiano eventually ended up in the West Indies, a region characterised by particular savagery on the part of slave-owners. While a slave, he adopted whole-heartedly capitalist mercantilism; his owner sent him up and down the coast of America moving goods. While employed in this activity, he became a small-time merchant himself and raised enough money to buy his freedom. On being manumitted, he returned to England where he composed his autobiography.

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