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Britain's Black Past$
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Gretchen H. Gerzina

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781789621600

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789621600.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 27 November 2021

Revisiting Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa

Revisiting Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa

(p.45) Chapter Three Revisiting Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa
Britain's Black Past

Vincent Carretta

Liverpool University Press

The backlash against challenging the origin story of Olaudah Equiano, author of the influential autobiography The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African. Written by Himself, is the subject of this chapter by Vincent Carreta. Since first being published in 1789, the text has achieved canonical status as a rare first-hand account of an African-born person describing the horrors of the Middle Passage and slavery. Interesting Narrative was successfully appropriated political propaganda by abolitionists to help end the transatlantic slave trade and abolish slavery. After revealing archival documents calling Equiano’s birth in Africa into question, Caretta describes the firestorm of criticism he faced, including threats of assault, from some scholars. He suggests that the unwillingness of some scholars to confront the possibility that Equiano may have lied about his birthplace is too high stakes as it opens the door to questioning how much of Interesting Narrative is fiction and how much work that relies on the text may require reexamination.

Keywords:   Olaudah Equiano, Gustavus Vassa, Interesting Narrative, Middle Passage, transatlantic slave trade, abolitionists

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