Interpretation of The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa the African by Olaudah Equiano, as related to chapter readings and information about The Middle Passage.

flip to next page Vonice Berry History 7A Professor Lubisich November 12, 2015 Document Interpretation 2: Calculus of Slavery Olaudah Equiano, The Middle Passage (1788) This excerpt1 is from the book, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa the African, which is an autobiography written by a former slave, Olaudah Equiano. As a child, Equiano was kidnapped from his home in Africa and sold into a life of slavery. In the excerpt, he retells the story of his survival aboard a slave ship in the Middle Passage. According to the PBS website, Africans in America, “the Middle Passage was the middle leg of a three-part voyage.”2 It was a journey that set sail and landed on the shores of Europe. The first part was when ship departed filled with “iron, cloth, brandy, firearms, and gunpowder.” The second part—the Middle Passage—was when the ship landed on the African “slave coast,” and the items were traded for Africans. After all the Africans were packed onto the ship, the ship set sail to America, and the enslaved Africans were traded again “for sugar, tobacco, or some other product.” The final part of the voyage was when the ship landed back in Europe. Racism, economic advancement, religious belief, social necessity—whatever reasons slave owners and slave drivers may have had for their extreme cruelty toward enslaved Africans, does not negate from the fact that human beings endured maltreatment, and there is no excuse 1. “The Middle Passage,” Olaudah Equiano, last updated January 27, 2003, http://www.brycchancarey.com/equiano/extract3.htm. 2. “The Middle Passage,” PBS Online, accessed November 11, 2015, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part1/1p277.html.
flip to next page  Vonice Berry History 7A Professor Lubisich November 12, 2015 Document Interpretation 2  Calculus of Sla...
back flip to next page Berry 2 that can justify the behavior. I think slavery in America was most cruel because it did not particularly merge European and African culture, but it raped the African people of their culture and forced fed conformity to an entire race of people. Enslaved Africans were stripped of their religion, their language, their family, and thrown into a life of oppression. Although these are what many consider as essential for human survival, there are some things that cannot be taken away because they are inherent and life-sustaining as well. Our American Stories text explains that “African Americans,” because they weren’t African or European, forged a new cultural identity for themselves.3 In Olaudah Equiano’s Narrative, it is obvious that he was kidnapped by other African people and sold into slavery. What a mockery, it seems, that people who were traded for sugar and tobacco would come to labor these very items in their enslavement. And though many Africans were captured and sold by other Africans, as Equiano was, we must remember that Africa is a huge continent with a very diverse cultural population. There were different tribes and most of the people didn’t speak the same dialect. Slavery was commonly practiced in Africa; however, the cruelty that existed for enslaved Africans in North America involved a different and inhumane treatment—not that any type of slavery could ever be humane. In Thomas Bender’s A Nation Among Nations, he discusses how, “Africans in the Atlantic world were treated more as units of labor than as humans” and it was a moral repulsion that unfortunately reduced what that looked like and meant in Africa as well.4 As Britain became a big power player in the slave trade, the demand for labor increased. While there was an internal element that contributed to this demand, external dynamics increased it. 3. H.W. Brands et al., American Stories: A History of the United States, 3rd. (Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education, Inc., 2015), 68-69. 4. Thomas Bender, A Nation Among Nations: America’s Place in World History (New York: Hill and Wang, 2006), 37.
back  flip to next page  Berry 2 that can justify the behavior. I think slavery in America was most cruel because it did n...
back Berry 3 References Bender, Thomas. A Nation Among Nations: America's Place in World History. New York: Hill and Wang, 2006. Brands, H.W., T.H. Breen, Hal R. Williams, and Ariela J. Gross. American Stories: A History of the United States. 3rd. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education, Inc., 2015. Equiano, Olaudah. The Middle Passage. 2003. http://www.brycchancarey.com/equiano/extract3.htm (accessed November 11, 2015). PBS Online. The Middle Passage. WGBH Educational Foundation. 1998. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part1/1p277.html (accessed November 11, 2015).
back  Berry 3 References Bender, Thomas. A Nation Among Nations  America s Place in World History. New York  Hill and Wang...