Olaudah Equiano was a writer and abolitionist. He was kidnapped at the age of eleven from his home village Essaka in Africa and sold as a slave along with his sisters. Equiano said that children in Africa were often kidnapped when grownups were gone doing work outside. They were separated and sold to slave traders and after changing ownership several times, Equiano briefly met his sister again before being separated again. He was taken across a river to the coast, where he was held by European slave traders. He and other African slaves sailed to the British colony of Virginia.

Equiano was bought by a man named Michael Pascal, a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. Pascal renamed the Equiano “Gustavus Vassa”, after a noble who had become Gustav I of Sweden, king in the sixteenth century. Equiano refused and asked to be called”Jacob” instead, but eventually he submitted to this new strange name. He used this name for the rest of his life and only used “Equiano” in his autobiography.

Pascal took Equiano with him when he returned to England and had him accompany him during the Seven Years’ War with France. Equiano was trained in seamanship, and he was expected to help the ship’s crew during battle. His job was to bring gunpowder to the gun decks. Pascal favored Equiano and sent him to Great Britain so he could attend school. While Equiano was in Great Britain he converted to Christianity.

I think Equiano had great luck with Michael Pascal and even though he was forced to change his name most of what Pascal had him do was not bad. It gets even better when he is sent to attend school, becoming a Christian in the process.

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