HIST 102

March 15, 2004

Slavery, as known to the western culture, is known as being a brutal act towards African people. From history books, it is easy to recall and say that slaves were treated awful. Commonly, they are also associated with starvation and excessive working. But this is not the only way of slavery known to man. Olaudah Equiano is able to give us an insight of the comparison between the West Indies slavery and the African slavery.

In his autobiography, Olaudah Equiano, explains with great detail the different experiences throughout his life. He is able to give an insight to the African slavery as well as the West Indies slavery, comparing and contrasting them.

Olaudah Equiano was a son of an African chief, born around the year 1745 in an area called Eboe in Guinea. He explains, throughout his childhood, the ways of living in his home town and states a great point in the difference of African and West Indies slavery:

“With us they do no more work than other members of the community,

than even their master; their food, clothing, and lodging, were nearly

the same as theirs, except that they were nt permitted to eat with those

who were free-born”[1].

In here he gives a pretty well description of slavery in his town, and makes a good point, in which I would like to focus, to explain the difference of slaveries.

The major difference in between the two slaveries was first and foremost the way the slaves were obtained. In Africa, prisoners, kidnappers and delinquents, were labeled as slaves. No person in Africa would be a slave without having had some guilt in the past. As in the West Indies, slaves were innocent people who had been kidnapped or captured and sold to Europeans.

Another difference was the way they were treated. As Equiano explained, the slaves in Africa had about the same rights their own masters had. There were just some small differences, as were they had to eat and sleep. Eventually, the slaves were able to work their selves to a better position, so good that they were able to one of the master’s daughters. In contrast, in the West Indies, slaves were treated in the most inhumane way imaginable. A great example of this was the “Middle Passage”, which was the second voyage they had to undertake. He describes how they were all put in the ship all under deck, such a small and crowded place, that people would die from the pestilence and the lack of breathable air.

Through such experiences Equiano went through, he was able to put them together in his book, and give the reader a heart written experience, enabling the reader to understand such differences. Such was the meaningfulness of his experiences that his book was part of the basics to abolish slavery. Explaining that slaves should be treated humanly which was the major and foremost difference he encountered with slavery in the West Indies.

[1] Olaudah Equiano, “The Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African” p17