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Understanding Slavery

A Slave on Three Continents

Slave Sailor
Equino's travels as a slave sailor Equiano was soon sold again. His new owner was a lieutenant in the British navy named Michael Henry Pascal. Pascal gave him a new name: Gustavus Vassa. Equiano refused to answer to this name at first. Pascal slapped him with each refusal, and soon he relented.

Under Pascal, Equiano learned to be a sailor. He spent much time in England, where managed to educate himself as well. He even fought for Britain in the Seven Years' War.

I began to consider myself as happily situated, for my master treated me always extremely well; and my attachment and gratitude to him were very great. I soon grew a stranger to terror of every kind, and was, in that respect at least almost an Englishman.

After seven years, Equiano had grown comfortable with his fate. So he was shocked once again when his owner sold him. His buyer was Captain James Doran to the West Indies. But Equiano challenged the sale:

I told him my master could not sell me to him, nor to anyone else. 'Why,' said he, 'did not your master buy you?' I confessed he did. 'But I have served him,' said I, 'many years, and he has taken all my wages and prize-money, . . . besides this I have been baptized, and by the laws of the land no man has a right to sell me.' And I added that I had heard a lawyer and others at different times tell my master so.

But Doran was not persuaded:

Captain Doran said he had a method on board to make me [behave]. I was too well convinced of his power over me to doubt what he said; and my former sufferings in the slave-ship presenting themselves to my mind, the recollection of them made me shudder.

Next: Free Again

Timeline of Olaudah Equiano's Life
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