Olaudah Equiano was born around 1745 in present day Nigeria. He was kidnapped and enslaved in 1756. He was taken to the Caribbean and enslaved to a Royal Navy officer. He purchased his freedom in 1766 and departed for London. In London, Equiano, known as Gustavus Vassa, was part of the Sons of Africa, an abolitionist group composed of Africans living in Britain, and an active leader within the anti-slavery movement.
Equiano published his memoir, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African, Written By Himself, in 1789. The autobiography is a rare, first-hand account of an enslaved person’s experience that includes both life in Africa, and in chattel slavery. The book was printed in nine editions during Equiano’s lifetime. The book’s success was an astounding accomplishment, that aided in the passing of the British Slave Trade Act of 1807. This act made it illegal for Britain to engage in trans-Atlantic trafficking of enslaved Africans.