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Similarities in Pre and Post Slavery Societies

Olaudah Equiano’s life was filled with a great deal of tragedy and oppression. Equiano looks fondly upon his homeland and displays a deep connection to his nation and his people. Having ripped from his family at the age of 11 to be sold as a slave, Equiano has many stories about the horrors he faced under his owners and how his race determined his path in life. It is quite remarkable how Equiano is able to describe, in detail, the most traumatic events of his life. Equiano’s life in slavery differed from his time in various African nations to when he finally was taken overseas. Equiano had immediate fear for the white men who he had never encountered before. They were more cruel and terrifying than the previous people he had met on his journey as a slave.¬†While Equiano’s life in slavery was filled with unimaginable maltreatment, he also did not see much hope for the life of a free black man.

Equiano’s story culminated in him buying his own freedom. Through all of the pain and suffering he entailed, he never gave up because he knew there was a better life out there that he deserved to live. Equiano was sold to many different people in many different places, but he never forgot his roots and his self worth and knew that one day, the life of a slave would not be his anymore. He was able to appreciate those who were kind to him, even though there were so many who had not been kind. Equiano knew not to take this kindness for granted, as he was not sure if someone would ever be kind to him again. Equiano did not let the opinions of others change how he felt about himself and he always had a clear self identity that allowed him to stay strong throughout his many trades.

While reading Equiano’s story, one has to also remember the slaves whose lives did not end in freedom. Many lives have been forgotten, as their stories were deemed not important enough to tell. Equiano makes sure to recognize that he was one of the lucky ones and that there were not many lucky ones. I would imagine that Equiano would be suprised by the lack of progress made today regarding the treatment of minorities. While slavery is illegal, the same mentality behind the creation of slavery still exists today and is still suppressing black voices, in particular black women. Intersectionality reveals the reality of black women who are constantly overlooked as they fall into two minority categories. As a society, it is our duty to be aware of and change these views because one group of people should not have to fight the constant oppression from others on their own.

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  1. Emma Joaquin Emma Joaquin

    As you mentioned, Equiano remained kind and appreciative to those that were kind to him throughout his life despite his hardships. It is so surprising to me that he was not hardened by his experiences and hostile to everyone along the way. It shows his strength through this remaining true to who he was as a person the whole time.

  2. Alexander Seeley Alexander Seeley

    I also thought his kindness to others was an interesting theme through the story. Although Equiano dealt with many different masters he was able to quickly tell which ones would treat him with respect (circumstantial) and give him opportunities to learn. There seems also to be a weird position Equiano is put in when his final master who is a slave trader puts him in charge of many duties but some included directing/managing other slaves who were being transported. Equiano’s position is one in which he can develop academically, socially, and financially under slave rule whilst conducting the ‘traffic’ of mal-treated/in-trade slaves. Although he had no choice to which master bought him, I wonder if throughout his life, or after he obtained freedom that he felt guilty in any way. I am not underestimating the process of gaining freedom for a slave however I’m curious about the relationships in which freed slaves and captive slaves held.

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