Jessica Rodriguez Essay

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Moton and Paradise

Historical Accuracy in Equiano’s Novel

Olaudah Equiano’s autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by
Himself, has become a very important piece of literature. Equiano established a new type of literature with this novel. It was the first autobiography/slave narrative ever written. Many other slaves, such as Fredrick Douglass, followed his example in writing autobiographies or slave narratives. Equiano not only gives detailed descriptions of his homeland, of which we still know little about, he also gives a powerful account of the Middle Passage. Despite these captivating accounts, many critics have come to question the authenticity of
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As all young children do, Equiano had become accustomed to his own way of living. Although he did not have the capability to understand all of the ways of the Igbo, he relates what he does understand and remember.

According to Katherine Slattery, the Igbo people have been researched for only the past 50 years. Many of the sources available include
“fragmentary oral traditions and correlation of cultural traits”
(Slattery). It is possible that Equiano provided for much of the information that is known about that region of the world. It has been found that from 1434-1807, there was much trade between England and
Nigeria consisting mostly of Igbo slaves (Slattery). Equiano was very aware as a child that there were kidnappers and assailants in search of victims to sell as slaves. He asserts that when the adults would leave to work, the children would get together and “commonly some of us used to get up a tree to look out for any assailant, or kidnapper that might come upon us; for they sometimes took these opportunities of our parents’ absence, to attack and carry off as many as they could seize” (Equiano 24). Equiano could not have known that this is what was happening had he not experienced it first hand.

After his kidnapping and subsequently being sold many times, Equiano experiences the Middle Passage. He states of the slave ship, “and I was now

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