Our house is named after Olaudah Equiano (1745-1797).
“That they may be raised from the condition of brutes, to which they are at present degraded, to the rights and situation of freemen.” from his petition to Queen Charlotte in 1788 against the slave trade.
Born in 1745, Olaudah Equiano was a freed African slave who was a major force behind the British abolition of the slave trade. Enslaved as a child, he was whisked away at the age of 11 from his home town of Essaka in south-east Nigeria and shipped to the West Indies. It was a dangerous journey and many died on the way from disease, malnutrition, shipwreck and even pirates!
Upon arrival, he was soon transferred to Virginia, then a British colony, and sold to a Royal Navy lieutenant called Michael Pascal. Olaudah was shocked and appalled by the cruel treatment and punishments that domestic slaves like him suffered. However, as his master was a naval captain, Olaudah travelled extensively with him during the Seven Years War. Pascal also sent him to his sister-in-law in Britain, where he learned to read and was converted to Christianity. Pascal eventually sold him in Kent, where he was journeyed to Montserrat, to be sold again: this time to a Quaker merchant called Robert King.
King taught him to read and write more fluently, and Olaudah sold fruits and glass tumblers, earning his freedom in just three years. It was dangerous for Olaudah to remain in the colonies, as he had nearly been kidnapped back into slavery. So he travelled the world, going everywhere from Turkey to the Arctic.
Finally, he settled in London, where he soon joined the abolitionist cause. He published an autobiography in 1889 called The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African. Its vivid imagery of his suffering moved many to his cause and the book immensely popular.
He married a local, Susanna Cullen, in 1792 in Soham and they had two children. He died on the 31st March 1797 and the slave trade was abolished 10 years later. His elder daughter, Anna Maria, is buried in St. Andrew’s Church, Chesterton, just a few streets from our school.