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Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division

Olaudah Equiano [Gustavus Vassa] (1745?-1797)

According to his autobiography, Equiano, the son of an East Nigerian notable, was kidnapped at the age of ten and taken to Virginia, where he was purchased by a lieutenant in the Royal Navy and transported to England. His owner named him for the the sixteenth-century Swedish king Gustavus Vassa. In 1761 Equiano was sold in the West Indies to a Philadelphia Quaker and merchant from whom he learned commerce. He traveled between Philadelphia and the West Indies, earning enough money to purchase his freedom in 1766.

His acclaimed autobiography, Interesting Narrative, had eight British editions and one American publication in his lifetime, and ten posthumously, including Dutch and German translations.

A recent discovery of documents on Equiano has led some scholars to raise doubts about his claim to African birth. The records indicate that he may have been born in South Carolina. Whether or not he was born in Igboland or in America, the events of his life substantiate the demographic analysis that identifies a primary concentration of Igbo and Ibibio in tidewater Virginia and Maryland, and a secondary concentration in the Carolina low country.

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Image ID: 485601
Title: Olaudah Equiano [Gustavas Vassa](1745?-1797).
Source: The interesting narrative of the life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African / written by himself.
Name: Equiano, Olaudah (b. 1745) - Author
Published: 1793
Location: Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Subjects: Authors
Equiano, Olaudah, b. 1745
Igbo (African people)

Keywords: Equiano, Olaudah
Transatlantic Slave Trade
Vassa, Gustavus
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