William Ansah Sessarakoo
William Ansah Sessarakoo, Gentleman's Magazine, June 1750
© National Portrait Gallery, London
William Ansah Sessarakoo was the son of a wealthy West African slave trader who in 1749 was sent by his father with a companion to Europe for his education. Despite his high social standing he was put into slavery by the treacherous captain of the ship bringing him to Europe. He was rescued by the British government, which had been informed of his fate, and brought to London where he was treated as a prince. His captivity and rescue made him a celebrity. He was introduced to King George II and became the subject of popular accounts that compared him to Oroonoko, the African hero of a much-performed play in which a noble African prince was also sold into slavery.