The following year, he published his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano. It was not the first book of this kind, but it was unique in many ways. Using the marketing skills he had acquired in his career, Equiano chose to self-publish and to promote the book by finding a large number of subscribers. This allowed him to publish an undiluted message, revealing the atrocities of the slave trade and exposing the cold-heartedness of its perpetrators in no uncertain terms.
Olaudah Equiano described his 1745 place of birth as “a charming vale, named Essaka” in the kingdom of Benin (in today’s southeastern Nigeria). His father occupied an important place among the Igbo people, and was himself a slave owner. The Igbo, Equiano said in his writings, were “almost a nation of dancers, musicians, and poets,” who found frequent occasions of celebration and rejoicing.
From Ship to Ship
But Equiano’s happy life with his people didn’t last long. He was only eight when slave raiders intruded into his house, kidnapped him and his sister, and took them, together with other captives, on a long march toward the sea. At one point during the journey, the raiders woke up Equiano and his sister while they were lying “clasped in each other’s arms” and sent them on separate routes. It was a traumatic experience for Equiano, who couldn’t stop crying for days, and had to be force-fed to prevent him from dying of starvation.
After a difficult voyage across the Atlantic, Equiano was moved from place to place and from owner to owner until 1754, when he was sold to an English naval officer, Michael Pascal. Pascal took him to England and renamed him Gustavus Vassa (after the sixteenth-century Swedish king). From then on, Equiano served as a sailor on British ships, participating in a few battles of the Seven Years’ War.
For two years, he enjoyed the friendship of a young American sailor, Richard Baker, who “at the age of fifteen, discovered a mind superior to prejudice.” The two became inseparable, comforting each other during the worst moments of the war. But Baker died suddenly in 1759, at only 15 years of age.
Another influential man in Equiano’s life was Daniel Queen, the captain’s assistant, who taught the young slave to read, write, and perform basic math. Queen introduced Equiano to the Bible and discussed various passages with him. “He was like a father to me,” Equiano said. Equiano was baptized at the Anglican Church of St Margaret, at Westminster, on 9 February 1759.
Once again, this relationship ended abruptly in 1762, when Pascal sold Equiano, without warning, to Captain James Doran, a tough man who complained that the slave “talked too much English.” This came to a surprise to Equiano, who had mistakenly thought Pascal had freed him after his baptism.
At first, Equiano saw this new setback as a chastisement from God for some offense he had committed. After asking God for forgiveness, he was comforted by the thought that “trials and disappointments are sometimes for our good. … I thought God might perhaps have permitted this in order to teach me wisdom and resignation.”
The ship took Equiano to Monserrat, one of the Caribbean islands, where he was sold to Captain Robert King, who trained him as a trader. This gave Equiano the opportunity to do some business on the side and to raise some money that he used in 1766 to buy his own freedom. He then went back to London, where he worked for some time as a hairdresser.
A Freeman by Law and in Christ
He soon returned to the sea, this time as a free man, traveling extensively and running into various dangers, such as a shipwreck in the Bahamas and a perilous venture to the North Pole (along with the young Horatio Nelson). The hazards of this last journey brought him to deeper reflections on his eternal salvation and to a greater commitment to Christ.
 Olaudah Equiano, Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, London, 1794, p. 3 (see also https://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/equiano2/equiano2.html)
 Ibid., p. 7
 Ibid., p. 33
 Ibid., p. 64
 Ibid., p. 112
 Ibid., p. 115.
 Ibid., p. 118.