Primary Sources - Olandah Equino- An African Slave Relates - Read source, and
answer questions to consider in paragraph (1page and half description ) using your own
words. Do not forget your cited work.
An African Slave Relates His First Impressions Upon Boarding a Slave Ship
Olaudah Equiano was a West African who had been sold into slavery and transported across the Atlantic
Ocean to a new life of servitude. In the New World, Equiano converted to Christianity and learned to
read and write. Ultimately, he was able to secure his freedom and moved to London where he wrote
and published an account of his life as a slave. Equiano's memoir is a rare piece of evidence providing us
with the views of an enslaved West African.
Questions to Consider
•Why did Equiano say he would have preferred death to continued existence on the slave ship?
• How did Equiano find himself is such a terrible predicament? Did he seem to hold any grudge against
his original captors?
The first object which saluted my eyes when I arrived on the coast was the sea, and a slave ship, which
was then riding at anchor, and waiting for its cargo. These filled me with astonishment, which was soon
converted into terror, which I am yet at a loss to describe nor the then feelings of my mind. When I was
carried on board I was immediately handled, and tossed up, to see if I were sound by some of the crew;
and I was now persuaded that I had got into a world of bad spirits, and that they were going to kill me.
Their complexions too differing so much from ours, their long hair, and the language they spoke, which
was very different from any I had ever heard, united to confirm me in this belief. Indeed, such were the
horrors of my views and fears at the moment, that, if ten thousand worlds had been my own, I would
have parted with them all to have exchanged my condition with that of the meanest slave in my own
country. When I looked around the ship too, and saw a large furnace or copper boiling, and a multitude
of black people of every description chained together, every one of their countenances expressing
dejection and sorrow, I no longer doubted of my fate; and, quite overpowered with horror and anguish,
I fell motionless on the deck and fainted. When I recovered a little, I found some black people about me,
who, I believed were some of those who brought me on board, and had been receiving their pay; they
talked to me in order to cheer me, but all in vain. I asked them if we were not to be eaten by those
white men with horrible looks, red faces, and long hair? They told me I was not; and one of the crew
brought me a small portion of spirituous liquor in a wine glass; but, being afraid of him, I would not take
it out of his hand. One of the blacks therefore took it from him, and gave it to me, and I took a little
down my palate, which, instead of reviving me, as they thought it would, threw me into the greatest
consternation at the strange feeling it produced, having never tasted any such liquor before. Soon after
this, the blacks who brought me on board went off, and left me abandoned to despair. I now saw myself
deprived of any chance of returning to my native country, or even the least glimpse of hope of gaining
the shore, which I now considered as friendly; and I even wished for my former slavery, in preference to
my present situation, which was filled with horrors of every kind, still heightened by my ignorance of
what I was to undergo. I was not long suffered to indulge my grief; I was soon put down under the
decks, and there I received such a salutation in my nostrils as I had never experienced in my life; so that,
with the loathsomeness of the stench, and crying together, I became so sick and low that I was not able
to eat, nor had I the least desire to taste any thing. I now wished for the last friend, Death, to relieve me;
but soon, to my grief, two of the white men offered me eatables; and, on my refusing to eat, one of
them held me fast by the hands, and laid me across, I think, the windlass, and tied my feet, while the
other flogged me severely....