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Olaudah Equiano ('Gustavus Vassa') (circa 1745-1797), Writer and slavery abolitionist

Sitter in 1 portrait
Equiano, sometimes known as Gustavus Vassa, was a slave from Nigeria. He was kidnapped at the age of eleven and put to work for a number of different masters in America, the West Indies and Europe. It was while in the Americas that Equiano developed his skills as an entrepreneur, using his many voyages to turn a profit on goods he carried with him and resold. Such financial dealings eventually enabled him to purchase his own freedom and he returned to Britain of his own will. In the 1780s he emerged as the most prominent spokesman for the black community living in London. He published his autobiographical Interesting Narrative in 1789, recounting his terrible experiences as a slave.

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Olaudah Equiano ('Gustavus Vassa')

by Daniel Orme, after W. Denton
stipple engraving, published 1789
NPG D8546