BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY Olaudah Equiano
Essaka, Igbo (claimed)
|Died||31 March 1797 (aged 51–52)|
Paddington Street, Middlesex
|Other names||Gustavus Vassa, Graves|
|Occupation||Explorer, writer, merchant, abolitionist|
|Known for||Influence over British abolitionists; his autobiography|
|Children||Joanna Vassa and Anna Maria Vassa|
Early life and enslavement
Pioneer of the abolitionist cause
Marriage and family
Last days and will
Legacy and honours
- The Equiano Society was formed in London in November 1996. Its main objective is to publicise and celebrate the life and work of Olaudah Equiano.
- Equiano lived at 13 Tottenham Street, London, in 1788; in 1789 he moved to what was then 10 Union Street and is now 73 Riding House Street. A City of Westminster commemorative green plaque was unveiled there on 11 October 2000 as part of Black History Month celebrations. Student musicians from Trinity College of Music played a fanfare specially composed by Professor Ian Hall for the unveiling.
- Equiano is honoured as a holy man in the Anglican Church, and honoured annually in a lesser festival on 30 July, along with Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce, who all worked for abolition of the slave trade and slavery.
- In 2007, the year of the celebration in Britain of the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade, Equiano's life and achievements were included in the National Curriculum, together with William Wilberforce. In December 2012 it was reported, by The Daily Mail newspaper, that both would be dropped from the curriculum, along with other social reformers, in favor of a "back to basics" curriculum. In January 2013 Operation Black Vote launched a petition to request Education Secretary Michael Gove to keep both Equiano and Mary Seacole in the National Curriculum. American Rev. Jesse Jackson and others wrote a letter to The Times protesting against the mooted removal of both figures from the National Curriculum.
- A statue of Equiano, made by pupils of Edmund Waller School, was erected in Telegraph Hill Lower Park in 2008.
Representation in other media
- A 28-minute documentary, Son of Africa: The Slave Narrative of Olaudah Equiano (1996), produced by the BBC and directed by Alrick Riley, uses dramatic reconstruction, archival material and interviews to provide the social and economic context for his life and the slave trade.
- Equiano was portrayed by the Senegalese singer and musician Youssou N'Dour in the film Amazing Grace (2006).
- African Snow (2007), a play by Murray Watts, takes place in the mind of John Newton, a captain in the slave trade who later became an Anglican cleric and hymnwriter. It was first produced at the York Theatre Royal as a co-production with Riding Lights Theatre Company, transferring to the Trafalgar Studios in London's West End and a National Tour. Newton was played by Roger Alborough and Equiano by Israel Oyelumade.
- Kent historian Dr. Robert Hume wrote a children's book, Equiano: The Slave with the Loud Voice (2007), illustrated by Cheryl Ives.
- David and Jessica Oyelowo appeared as Olaudah and his wife in Grace Unshackled – The Olaudah Equiano Story (2007), a BBC 7 radio adaptation of Equiano's autobiography.
- The British jazz artist Soweto Kinch's first album, Conversations with the Unseen (2003), contains a track entitled "Equiano's Tears".
- Equiano was portrayed by Jeffery Kissoon in Margaret Busby's 2007 play An African Cargo, staged at the Greenwich Theatre.
- Equiano is portrayed by Danny Sapani in the BBC series Garrow's Law (2010).