Segments in this Video

Memoirs of a Former Slave (03:26)


In 1792, Olaudah Equiano marries Susanna Cullen. Equiano's autobiography is an effective attack on the slave trade. The first-hand account is an instrument for mobilizing political opinion. Equiano writes about his father's prophecy.

1756 Abduction (02:16)

Olaudah Equiano carefully constructs a moral picture of his culture. Equiano plays in the forest while his father addresses the people. Slave traders kidnap Equiano and his sister; Equiano never sees his family or Africa again.

Sold Into Slavery (02:23)

An expert explains the crude and simple economics of the slave trade. Olaudah Equiano vividly recalls the horrors of traveling the Middle Passage. An expert considers the intimacy of slavery.

Slavery Brutalizes Everyone (02:43)

Olaudah Equiano is shipped to plantation in Virginia. He reveals that slave owners often father more slaves. He remembers being called into the plantation house and the fear of the things he saw. The slave owner sells him to a naval officer. (Nudity)

Sea-born Education (02:31)

Olaudah Equiano recalls watching men read; he wants to talk to books. Richard Becker shows Equiano partiality and attention. Equiano learns to read and write.

Seven Years War (01:26)

Olaudah Equiano is forcibly baptized Gustavus Vassa. In 1759, a 14 year-old Equiano serves under Pascal as a powder carrier. Pascal cheats him of his wages and prize money.

A Free Man (03:02)

At the age of 18, Olaudah Equiano is sold to Robert King. He receives a privileged status for his literacy and numeracy. Equiano engages in petty trade and accumulates 40 pounds, sterling with which he purchases his freedom from King.

Maritime Adventures of Equiano (01:58)

Olaudah Equiano makes a living at sea as a free man. He joins an expedition to the Arctic, assists with seawater experiments, and learns the French horn. Equiano regularly meets other free blacks in London; living can be difficult.

Demanding Liberty (04:05)

John Annis, is recaptured by his former master. Olaudah Equiano takes William Kirkpatrick to court to gain Annis' liberty. Equiano is part of the developing African community and the Abolitionist Movement. (Graphic language)

1788 Dolben Act (01:04)

In 1787, a slave ship captain throws 133 slaves overboard to claim an insurance fund. Olaudah Equiano enlists the help of Granville Sharp to bring the captain to court. Legislation is constructed in an attempt to regulate slave ship conditions.

"The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano." (03:15)

In 1789, Olaudah Equiano publishes his book; he aggressively uses the book to denounce slavery. Experts speculate on why Equiano has been forgotten. Equiano dies on March 31, 1797. In 1834, the British Empire abolishes slavery.

Credits: A Son of Africa (00:40)

Credits: A Son of Africa

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A Son of Africa

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The Interesting Narration of the Life of Olaudah Equiano created a sensation when it was published in 1789. Written by ex-slave Equiano, the autobiography vividly described the horrors of being kidnapped from Africa, the Middle Passage, and life in captivity, and fueled the growing abolitionist movement. This program employs dramatic reconstructions of this slave narrative, archival material, and interviews with scholars such as Stuart Hall and Ian Duffield to explain the social and economic context of the 18th-century slave trade. (28 minutes)

Length: 30 minutes

Item#: BVL49763

Copyright date: ©1996

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

“Powerful and evocative, this superb film is faithful to the single most important personal account ever written by a victim of the slave trade...Wonderfully instructive for high school and college students.”  —Prof. Winthrop D. Jordan, University of Mississippi

“A superb biography and treatment of slavery and the early abolition movement.”  —Prof. John W. Blasingame, Yale University

“Will make students want to read Equiano’s amazing narrative...Tells us as much about the 18th century Atlantic world as Ben Franklin’s autobiography.”  —Prof. Peter H. Wood, Duke University

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