Olaudah Equiano: Narration of the Dark Times

Topics: Caribbean, Atlantic slave trade, Native Americans in the United States Pages: 7 (1518 words) Published: September 21, 2015


Response Paper
“From the Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano”
Samuel Polston
Arizona State University
HST 101: Global History Since 1500
July 17, 2015

This essay explores the Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano from Sources of World Societies volume II, since 1450. Second Edition, with an intention of responding to specific questions relating to inter alia, perspectives expressed in the narrative as well as the cultures during the time period when the events being narrated occurred.

The narrative is about Olaudah Equiano, who was born in 1745, in Eboe, in present day Nigeria. The story is being narrated by Equiano himself, and he uses the narrative to walk the reader through different events and cultures, both in his home village and overseas. A number of perspectives, including slavery, civilization/sophistication, religion, business, and freedom are all expressed within the various sources that characterize the narrative.

Equiano begins his narration in Eboe, where he talks about his sister and himself being left at home to take care of the home as the rest of the family members leave for their duties in the farm and markets (Ward & Gainty, 2011, p.94). He discusses his native African culture, in terms of traditional customs associated with food, clothing, and even religious practices (Ward & Gainty, 2011, p.94). It is apparent how Equiano loves his culture, in terms of food, dressing, as well as the fact that he`s able to be in the company of his younger sister. We see a culture that embraces unity, love and hard work. The fact that Equiano’s family members have left for work in the farm and markets is a demonstration of a people that believe in hard work.

Equiano advances an argument, suggesting that the inhabitants of Eboe are like the early Jews, and the characteristic of dark African skin is because of Africans’ exposure to the hot tropical climatic conditions. He establishes a somewhat rare relationship between Africans and Christian Europeans, when he says that Africans may be indirectly related to the European Christians via their Jewish ancestry. At this point, Equiano openly rejects slavery, a practice he argues is an affront to humanity (Ward & Gainty, 2011). He views the slave traders as polished and haughty. In fact, according to Equiano, the “polished and haughty” Europeans are perpetrating slavery against native Africans because they consider such Africans as uncivilized and inferior. He believes that the native Africans owe their current status to nature, and reminds the “polished and haughty” Europeans that their ancestors were once like Africans, “uncivilized, and even barbarous (Ward & Gainty, 2011, p.97; Shields, 2008).”

I tend to share some of the views expressed by Equiano in this particular source. For instance, slavery during this time period was characterized by ruthlessness and other inhumane conducts, which in my view, violated the universality of human rights. In fact, I completely agree with Equiano that slavery was an affront to humanity. However, I tend to differ with Equiano in claiming that inhabitants of Eboe are like the Early Jews, and that Africans may be relatives of Christian Europeans via their Jewish ancestry. I do not find a connection therein nor do I think that there is any known existing historical documentation that seem to support Equiano’s theory regarding the relationship between the natives of Eboe and the early Jews.

I have only come across historical accounts alluding to a relationship between Native Americans and African Americans. For instance, a study conducted in Colorado found that most residents of Colorado had “Ashkenazi mutation,” a condition that was occasioned by the modification in BRCA1 gene, and increases one’s risk of contracting breast and ovarian cancer (McKay, 2009). The long-standing history between the Jews and Native Americans dates back 600 years ago, when a number of Jews began moving to...

References: Bugg, J. (2007). Deciphering the Equiano Archives (572-3). PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association of America.
Costanzo, A. (1997). Equiano, Olaudah (257-258). The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, eds. W. L. Andrews, F.S. Foster, & T. Harris. New York: Oxford University Press.
McKay, J. (2009). A History of World Societies vol II, since 1450. Ninth Edition. Boston, New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press.
Shields, E. T. (2008). Equiano, Olaudah. American National Biography Online. Available at: http://www.anb.org/articles/16/16-00512.html [Accessed 17 July 2015]
Ward. D. W., & Gainty, D. (2011). Sources of World Societies vol II, since 1450. Second Edition (pp.1-512). Boston, New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press.
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