The Journey of Olaudah Equiano

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The Journey of Olaudah Equiano

There is much debate today on the real origins of Olaudah Equiano and the validity of his slave narrative. Many believe he was born into slavery in South Carolina and he fabricated his African roots and journey through the Middle Passage in order to sell more copies of his narrative. However, what is important is not so much the truthfulness it obtains, but the message it leaves his readers. Equiano may or may not have been from Africa, but he still had a firsthand experience of colonial North American slavery. He wrote his narrative in order to teach his readers about the horrors and atrocities that took place every day to people just like him in the hopes that he could advance the movement against the slave trade. In order to do this, Equiano focused not only on the physical journey he took, but the spiritual journey as well. His expedition, from Africa to enslavement to freedom, closely corresponds to his spiritual journey, from ignorance to conversion to religious completion. This allowed his readers to understand his struggles in a way that was more familiar to them, which tied a closer bond between the reader and the author. Since his readers could relate to the two separate but intertwined journeys, Equiano could now enlighten his readers on the revulsion of the slave trade just as he was enlightened through Christianity. Colonial North America was a brand new world, where the opportunities for wealth were plentiful, ever-present, and over-powering and the slave trade was a direct result of man’s greedy drive for wealth. It took over one hundred years for slavery to be abolished, but Equiano’s journey, both physical and spiritual, presented to the world the true dreadfulness behind the slave trade, a paramount mistake on mankind. Equiano opens his narrative with a description of his native African culture, including the customs of clothing, family, food, war, and religious practices. Equiano describes Africans as “rude...
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