The slave trade, yet horrific in it’s inhumanity, became an important aspect of the world’s economy during the eighteenth century. During a time when thousands of Africans were being traded for currency, Olaudah Equiano became one of countless children kidnapped and sold on the black market as a slave. Slavery existed centuries before the birth of Equiano (1745), but strengthened drastically due to an increasing demand for labor in the developing western hemisphere, especially in the Caribbean and Carolinas. Through illogical justification, slave trading became a powerful facet of commerce, regardless of its deliberate mistreatment of human beings by other human beings. Olaudah Equiano was able to overcome this intense adversity and actually accumulate wealth by making the best of certain situations he faced throughout his experiences. Even though he was a victim of the slave trade, he willfully took advantage of the opportunity to see the world and to become a productive individual.
Olaudah Equiano and his sister were kidnapped by slave traders from their native village in Isseke, Nigeria. The nature of the African village, Isseke, was labor based and emphasized the concept of earning profit from hard work. There was a strong sense of community among these villagers, as Equiano explains in his personal narrative, “Thus we are all habituated to labor from our earliest years. Everyone contributes something to the common stock; and, as we are unacquainted with idleness, we have no beggars” (39)
The concept of slavery was accepted as a part of the culture and even in the fields of Isseke, Africa slaves were put to work. “Sometimes indeed, we sold slaves to them, but they were only prisoners of war, or such among us as had been convicted of kidnapping or adultery, and some other crimes, which we esteemed heinous.” (38)
Equiano’s fortune landed him in the hands of a wealthy widow who purchased him from the traders who had kidnapped him. He lived the life as a companion to the widow and her son. Luck was on his side in this transaction, many slave owners frowned upon educating and assisting slaves. “Masters” typically feared an educated slave would take measures to make a change. He explains, though, how he held status above other slave under the widow’s ownership, “There were likewise slaves daily to attend us, while my young master and I, with other boys, sported with our darts and bows and arrows, as I had been used to at home. “ (52) Equiano, a slave at the time, had the shared the power of a slave master!
Equiano’s luck soon shifted when he was once again kidnapped and sold as a slave, this time he would have to endure the notoriously dreadful journey across the sea to America. Knowing that this was a pivotal point in his life and that he would become a gudgeon to the harshness of slavery, Equiano attempted to prepare himself for what lay ahead. However, the sight of the inhumane acts he witnessed on the African coast,...