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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Olaudah Equiano's sister

When I sat down at the computer this morning I realised that I didn't know what happened to Olaudah Equiano's sister. So I turned to chapter II of his autobiography. They were kidnapped from their village by Africans, later separated, briefly reunited by coincidence and then never saw each other again. This separating of relatives was something that Equiano felt particularly strongly about. He writes:

I remember in the vessel* in which I was brought over, in the men's apartment, there were several brothers, who, in the sale, were sold in different lots; and it was very moving on this occasion to see and hear their cries at parting. O, ye nominal Christians! might not an African ask you, learned you this from your God, who says unto you, Do unto all men as you would men should do unto you? Is it not enough that we are torn from our country and friends to toil for your luxury and lust of gain? Must every tender feeling be likewise sacrificed to your avarice? Are the dearest friends and relations, now rendered more dear by their separation from their kindred, still to be parted from each other, and thus prevented from cheering the gloom of slavery with the small comfort of being together and mingling their sufferings and sorrows? Why are parents to lose their children, brothers their sisters, or husbands their wives? Surely this is a new refinement in cruelty, which, while it has no advantage to atone for it, thus aggravates distress, and adds fresh horrors even to the wretchedness of slavery.
* The slave ship.

If Carretta is correct then this part of the autobiography is fictional. When I read it I felt that Equiano was actually there. Even if he wasn't he must have taken his account from the experiences of other slaves he had met. That means that whichever way you look at it the first chapters are a true story.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw this story about present-day slavery in Haiti on the Guardian website today which just goes to show how important an understanding of history is.

Excellent blog. Keep up the good work. I particularly like your use of primary sources.

9:17 pm  
Blogger Jonathan Dresner said...

An epistemological quibble:
he must have taken his account from the experiences of other slaves he had met.
Not necessarily. That's one possible and plausible source, but we don't know that he availed himself of it. If he did, it would bolster the credibility of the (most probably) fabricated portions of the autobiography. Without evidence, though, we can't say that for sure.

6:30 am  
Blogger Mapo said...

Thank you anon.

Yes you caught me out there Jonathan. I couldn't have got away with a sweeping statement like that in my thesis.

I'm watching CNN. I hope everything turns out ok in Texas.

12:10 pm  
Blogger Katie S. said...

I just noticed this blog posted a few years ago about Olaudah Equiano's sister. I am writing an historical fiction account of Equiano's daughter, Joanna Vassa, and his sister.

Katie S.

2:48 am  
Blogger Lee Wright said...

I am super curious if any of you are still active. I am writing master's thesis centered on Equiano's life, and I would love to have a chat.

4:46 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

does anyone know what Olaudah Equiano's sister is called? In one of his books I read he did not mention her name.

11:15 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

get to the point man, you did`nt even wrote about what happend

11:17 am  

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