Discussion Questions for: The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano

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Discussion Questions for:
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano

Theme One: West African life in the 18th Century
That part of Africa, known by the name Guinea, to which the trade for slaves is carried on, extends along the coast above 3400 miles, from Senegal to Angola, and includes a variety of kingdoms.”

  1. Provide a description of the political, cultural, and social life of Equiano’s village?

  2. What comparison does Equiano make between the 18th

century Eboe (Igbo ) and Ancient Israelites?
Equiano described his whole community (male and female) as a “kind of militia.”
3. What does this tell us about West Africa in the 18th century?

4. What impact does the trans-Atlantic economy have on the militarization of West Africa?

Theme Two: Capture and the Middle Passage
To that Heaven which protects the weak from the strong, I commit the care of your innocence and virtues, if they have not already received their full reward and if your youth and delicacy have not fallen victim to the violence of the African trader, the pestilential stench of a Guinea ship, the seasoning in the European colonies, and the lash and lust of a brutal and unrelenting overseer.”

5. Describe Equiano’s capture and journey to the coast. What role do Africans play in his capture? What roles do Europeans play in his capture?

6. What is Equiano’s initial perspective of Europeans? What impact does his traditional worldview have on how he see White people?
Theme Three: Enslavement in the western hemisphere
While I was in this plantation… I was sent for…I came into the room where he was. I was very much affrighted at some things I saw….I had seen a black woman slave as I came through the house…and the poor creature was loaded with various kinds of iron machines; she had one particularly on her head, which locked her mouth so she could scarcely speak; and could not eat nor drink speak.”

7. Contrast and compare African slavery versus Racial Slavery in European colonies in the western hemisphere. How does Equiano distinguish them?

8. How was the majority of Equino’s captivity different from Africans enslaved on plantations?

9. What allows Equiano’s status as an enslaved person to be more privileged from that of field slaves?

Theme Four: Equiano, Emancipation and Abolition
While I was thus employed by my master, I was often a witness to cruelties of every kind, which were exercised in my unhappy fellow slave. I used frequently to have different cargoes of Negroes in my care for sale: and it was almost a common practice with our clerks and

other whites, to commit violent depredations on the chastity of female slaves…I have known our mates to commit these acts most shamefully, to the disgrace, not of Christians only, but of men.”
10. What arguments does Equiano pose to challenge the institution of slavery?

11. What role does Equiano play in the British Abolitionist movement?

Theme Five: Equiano, Identity and the Atlantic world
It was now between two and three years since I first came to England, a great part of which I had spent at sea; …I could now speak English tolerably well, and I perfectly understood everything that was said. I not only felt myself quite easy with these new country men, but relished their society and manners.”

12. How does Equiano’s identity change from before his capture to when he’s an adult in England?

13. Is Equaino’s transformation unique or common in the Atlantic World of the 18th century?

14. In what ways does Equiano’s Narrative demonstrate Atlantic connections?

15. What major historical events occur in the Atlantic World during Equiano’s life? How do they impact his life?

Symposium I: GPS Standards and Enduring Understandings

SSUSH1: The student will describe European settlement in North America

during the 17th century.

a. Explain Virginia’s development, including the Virginia Company,

tobacco cultivation, relationships with Native Americans such as Powhatan, development of the House of Burgesses, Bacon’s Rebellion, and the development of

SSUSH2: The student will trace the ways that the economy and society of

British North America developed.

a. Explain the development of mercantilism and the trans-Atlantic


b. Describe the Middle Passage, growth of the African population and

African-American culture.

c. Identify Benjamin Franklin as a symbol of social mobility and


Unit 1

Enduring Understandings

The movement of people, ideas, and goods has a profound influence on a

Essential Question

●What was the impact of slavery on the development of Colonial

America? (USH1a; USH2b)

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