Birmingham City Council

Olaudah Equiano

Olaudah Equiano
Olaudah Equiano (also referred to as Gustavus Vassa) was born in Nigeria, stolen from his parents and sold into slavery. He eventually obtained his freedom and was instrumental in encouraging the white campaigners such as Granville Sharp to launch a national campaign against the slave trade. He wrote his autobiography (Life of Gustavas Vassa) which provides an account of the cruelty inflicted by whites upon blacks. Thousands of copies of this book were sold and was the main anti-slavery text during the period of the significant anti-slavery movement.

Equiano's visit to Birmingham contributed to the anti-slavery campaign in the City. There is a record of his letter in A Century of Birmingham Life, compiled and edited by John Alfred Langford, in which he expressed his sincere thanks to the members of the local radical bourgeoisie for their contribution to the anti-slave movement. These included:


Mr Charles Lloyd
Mr Sampson Lloyd
Dr Gilby
Dr Johnstone
Mr Taylor
Mr Garbett
Mr Galton
Mr Russell
Mr Matthew Boulton
Mr Freer
Dr Priestly

The following is his letter of gratitude:

I beg you to suffer me thus publicly to express my grateful acknowledgements for their Favours and for the fellow-feeling they have discovered for my very poor and much oppressed countrymen; these Acts of Kindness and Hospitality have filled me with a longing desire to see these worthy Friends on my own estate in Africa, when the richest Produce of it should be devoted to their Entertainment; they should there partake of the luxuriant Pine-apples and the well-flavoured virgin Palm Wine, and to heighten the Bliss, I would burn a certain kind of Tree, that would afford us Light as clear and brilliant as the Virtues of my Guests.

I am Sir, your humble Servant,
GUSTAVAS VASA, the African"

For those interested in learning more about the life of Olaudah Equiano his autobiography Life of Gustavas Vassa is available in the Archives and Heritage section of the Central Library (Floor 6).


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