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Olaudah Equiano

Gustavus Vassa
abolitionist, writer
Born: c. 1745
Birthplace: present day Nigeria

An Igbo, Equiano was captured and sold into slavery as a child. He was taken to the West Indies where his slave name became Gustavus, after a 16th century Swedish king. Taught to read and write, he was able to purchase his own freedom. Equiano made his way to London, where he worked briefly in a government office helping resettle blacks in Africa, probably making him the first black British civil servant. In 1789, he published his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa the African, which had a strong abolitionist message. Though some critics called it propaganda, the book was a financial success. In 1792, Equiano married an Englishwoman, Susanna Cullen. They had two daughters.

Died: c. 1800

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