The son of a West African village chief was kidnapped by slave traders.
He found himself on a ship.
After a short stay on that Caribbean island, Equiano was sold to a plantation owner in Virginia and then purchased by a British sea captain.
He was with his owner on many voyages.
He enlisted in the Royal Navy after attending a school in England where he learned to read and write.
He fought in Canada during the Seven Years' War.
Equiano was sold again in 1763 and returned to the Caribbean.
He was able to purchase his freedom three years later.
Equiano took part in an English colonizing venture in Central America, as well as living through a number of wrecks.
The idea that Africans deserved to be slaves was condemned by him.
He asked the European reader if nature made his ancestors inferior.
He insisted that people of all races were capable of intellectual improvement.
The book was the most widely read account by a slave of his own experiences.
Equiano died in 1797.
Equiano may have been born in the New World, according to recent scholars.
His life illuminates broad patterns of eighteenth-century American history because of his rich variety of experience.
This was a period of sustained development for British North America.
The colonies were growing much more quickly than England and Scotland.
British America would one day surpass the mother country in population and wealth according to some.
It wouldn't be right to see the first three-quarters of the 18th century as a sign of American independence.
The Atlantic was more than just a bridge between the Old and New Worlds.
Goods and people flowed across the ocean.
As the colonies became more diverse, they were integrated into the British empire.
Their laws and political institutions were extensions of Britain, their ideas about society and culture reflected British values, and their economies were geared to serving the empire's needs.
As European powers jockeyed for advantage in North America, colonists were drawn into an almost continuous series of wars with France and its Indian allies, which reinforced their sense of identification with and dependence on Great Britain.
The simultaneous expansion of freedom and slavery is the greatest irony of Equiano's life.
The idea of the "freeborn Englishman" became ingrained in the view of both Britons and colonists.
Liberty was seen as the reason why the British empire was different.
The height of the Atlantic slave trade was in the 18th century.
More than half of the Africans shipped to the New World were slaves.
The majority of the 585,000 people who arrived in Britain's mainland colonies between 1700 and 1775 were destined for the plantations of the West Indies and Brazil.
Slavery existed in every colony of British North America.
Unlike Equiano, very few slaves were able to gain their freedom.
The slave trade in the Atlantic was condemned as a crime against humanity.
It was a regularized business in which European merchants, African traders, and American planters engaged in complex bargaining over human lives, all with the expectation of securing a profit.
The slave trade was important for world commerce.
Slave labor was used by every European empire in the New World.
An important diplomatic prize was an agreement between Spain and a foreign power that gave slaves to Spanish America.
A map of Virginia and Maryland shows a tobacco wharf.
While slaves go about their work, a planter negotiates with a merchant.
Slavery was the norm in the British empire of the 18th century.
English economic development was aided by slave plantations.
The first mass consumer goods were produced by slaves.
The rapid growth of the Atlantic slave trade was caused by the rising demand for these products.
The Caribbean was the main source of revenue for the British empire in the 18th century.
Atlantic commerce was dominated by slave-grown products from the mainland.
British manufactured goods to Africa and the colonies, colonial products to Europe, and slaves from Africa to the New World were transported through a series of triangular trading routes.
Most colonial vessels went back and forth between cities like New York and Charleston, and to ports in the Caribbean.
Slave labor was also profited from in some areas.
The slave trade took place in New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
The West Indies was the largest market for fish, grain, livestock, and lumber exported from New England and the Middle Colonies.
One historian wrote about the growth and prosperity of the society of free colonial British America.
The growth of banking, shipbuilding, and insurance was stimulated by the profits from slavery and the slave trade in Britain.
The early industrial revolution was financed by them.
Slaves were brought to the New World, manufactured goods were brought to Africa, and colonial products were brought to Europe.
In the 18th century, Atlantic commerce consisted of slaves, crops produced by slaves, and goods destined for slave societies.
For large numbers of free Europeans, freedom meant in part the power and right to enslave others.
The portrait of Equiano in European dress and holding a Bible challenges stereotypes of blacks as savages incapable of becoming civilized.
The Atlantic slave trade caused disruptions that a few African societies, like Benin, tried to avoid by opting out.
Most African rulers played the Europeans off one another, collecting taxes from foreign merchants, and keeping the capture and sale of slaves under their control.
Europeans rarely ventured inland from the coast.
African rulers and dealers brought slaves to traders in the form offactories.
Africa was a major market for European goods because of the slave trade.
Relationships were disrupted among African societies.
Guns encouraged the growth of slavery since the only way to obtain European weapons was to supply slaves, while cheap imported textiles undermined traditional craft production.
Large armies using European firearms would prey on their neighbors in order to capture slaves in West Africa by the 18th century.
Slavery became more and more central to West African society, a source of wealth for African merchants and of power for newly emerging African kingdoms.
The loss of tens of thousands of men and women in the prime of their lives to the slave trade weakened and distorted West Africa's society and economy.
The voyage across the Atlantic for slaves was known as the Middle Passage because it was the second leg of the triangular trading routes linking Europe, Africa, and America.
Since a slave could be sold in America for twenty to thirty times the price in Africa, men, women, and children were crammed aboard vessels as tightly as possible to maximize profits.
One slave trader wrote that the height between decks was only eighteen inches, so that the unfortunate human beings could not turn around or even on their sides.
Many Africans did not survive the Middle Passage, but Equiano did.
One slave in five died before reaching the New World due to diseases.
The sick were thrown off the ship in order to prevent the spread of epidemics.
Slave ships had a high death rate.
The Atlantic slave trade expanded rapidly in the 18th century.
Most of the Africans brought to the New World were sent to Brazil and the West Indies.
Less than 5 percent of slaves carried to the New World were destined for North America.
The high death rate on sugar plantations in Brazil and the West Indies led to a constant demand for new slave imports.
About 20,000 Africans landed in Britain's colonies in North America in the 1700's.
Their numbers increased steadily in the 18th century.
Between 600,000 and 400,000 slaves were imported to become the United States.
Around one-fifth of the estimated 2.3 million people living in the English colonies of North America were Africans and their descendants, due to the natural reproduction of the slave population.
Guns, cloth, and metal goods were to be traded for slaves.
There are three images on the left depicting the conditions under which slaves traveled across the Atlantic.
The ship carried slaves.
The calculation of the profit of the voyage was included in the broadside.
In Britain's mainland colonies, there were three distinct slave systems: tobacco-based plantation slavery, rice-based plantation slavery and nonplantation slavery.
Almost half of the region's population resided in the tobacco plantation system of the Chesapeake in the 17th century.
The economies of Virginia and Maryland were models of mercantilist policy on the eve of the Revolution.
They supplied the mother country with a valuable agricultural product, imported large amounts of British goods, and were linked to culture and political values in London.
The period after 1680 saw a rapid shift from indentured servitude to slavery on the region's tobacco plantations.
Slave imports were encouraged by the growing world demand for tobacco.
Slavery and Virginia expanded as Virginia expanded.
The center of slavery in the colony shifted from the coast to the Piedmont by the eve of the American Revolution.
The majority of the slaves worked in the fields, but thousands worked as teamsters, boatmen, and skilled crafts.
Slave women became cooks, seamstresses, dairy maids, and personal servants.
Half of Virginia's white families owned at least one slave in the 17th century.
Slavery laid the foundation for the consolidation of the Chesapeake elite, a landed gentry that in conjunction with merchants who handled the tobacco trade and lawyers who defended the interests of slaveholders dominated the region's society and politics.
The best lands and wealth of the white population became more and more concentrated as slavery expanded.
Slavery created a hierarchy of degrees of freedom.
At the top stood large planters, below them numerous lesser planters and landowning yeomen, and at the bottom a large population of convicts, indentured servants, tenant farmers, and slaves.
With the consolidation of a slave society in the Chesapeake, planters filled the law books with measures enhancing the master's power over his human property and limiting blacks' access to freedom.
Race became more important as a line of social division.
Whites are now considered dangerous and undesirable.
Free blacks lost the right to bear arms, and were subject to special taxes, if they struck a white person.
In 1723, Virginia revoked the voting privileges of blacks.
Free blacks were sent out of the colony in order to keep the population under 4%.
South Carolina and Georgia had a different slave system based on rice production.
Members of the area's native population were the first to be killed by the Barbadians.
The settlers were welcomed by the Creek Indians and they began selling slaves and war captives to the West Indies.
They launched wars against neighboring tribes to capture and sell slaves.
The Creeks became more and more concerned as the plantation system expanded, not only because it led to encroachments on their land, but also because they feared enslavement themselves.
Only a few slaves worked in Spanish Florida.
South Carolina's small population of African-born slaves, who were initially allowed to serve in the militia to fight the Spanish and Indians, were given latitude by frontier conditions.
As in Virginia, the introduction of a staple crop led to economic development, the large-scale importation of slaves, and a growing divide between white and black.
The first mainland colony to have a black majority was South Carolina.
When North Carolina became a separate colony in the 17th century, twothirds of its population was black.
indigo, a crop used in producing blue dye, was developed in the 1740s.
Like rice, indigo was grown by slaves.
The broadside advertised the sale of ninety-four slaves who had just arrived in Charleston from West Africa.
Slave traders used broadsides like this one to drum up business.
The foundation of South Carolina slavery and the wealthiest slaveowning class on the North American mainland was created by Africans who taught English settlers how to cultivate rice.
Rice plantations should be as large as possible since it takes a lot of capital to drain swamps and create irrigation systems.
South Carolina planters owned more land and slaves than their Virginia counterparts.
The planters tended to leave the plantations under the control of the overseers and the slaves since the mosquitoes that carried Malaria flourished in the watery rice fields.
The field slaves worked in groups.
In South Carolina, individual slaves were assigned daily jobs that allowed them time for leisure or to cultivate their own crops.
One rice district had a population of only 76 white males.
Fearful of the ever-increasing black population majority, South Carolina's legislature took steps to encourage the immigration of "poor Protestants," offering each newcomer a cash bounty and occasionally levying taxes on slave imports, only to see such restrictions overturned in London.
Over half of the colony's population was made up of South Carolina slaves.
The Georgia Experiment Rice cultivation began in the mid-eightteenth century.
The colony was founded in 1732 by a group of philanthropists led by James Oglethorpe, who was a wealthy reformer.
The "worthy poor" of England could benefit from the establishment of a haven.
Georgia was created to protect South Carolina from the Spanish and their allies in Florida.
The proprietors banned the introduction of both liquor and slaves, leading to battles with settlers who wanted both.
Georgia offered the spectacle of colonists pleading for the "English liberty" of self-government so that they could make laws to introduce slavery.
The colony was surrendered to the crown in 1751.
The elected assembly was held in the main settlement of Georgia.
The ban on slavery and liquor was repealed, as well as an early measure that limited land holdings to 500 acres.
Georgia was a miniature version of South Carolina.
As many as 15,000 slaves labored on its coastal rice plantations by the 17th century.
Slavery in the North was less important to the economies of New England and the Middle Colonies than it was to the plantation regions.
It was unusual for rich families to own more than one or two slaves in these colonies.
Slavery was a part of northern colonial life.
Many of the region's leaders owned slaves, including the prominent theologian Cotton Mather.
The New England economy depended on trade with the West Indies.
Slaves worked as farm hands in artisan shops, as stevedores loading and unloading ships, and as personal servants.
Laws in the South were harsher than in the North because slaves were so small, but they seemed to pose no threat to the white majority.
In New England, where the 15,000 slaves represented less than 3 percent of the region's population, slave marriages were recognized in law, the severe physical punishment of slaves was prohibited, and slaves could bring suits in court, testify against whites, and own property.
A portrait of Ayuba Diallo, a Muslim merchant who became a victim of the slave trade in 1731, is located in Maryland.
Wealthy patrons helped him regain his freedom after he escaped.
He became a celebrity in England because he could recite the Koran from memory and knew both English and Arabic.
He sat for two portraits.
The earliest known painting of an African who experienced slavery in Britain's North American colonies is here.
In 1734, Diallo returned to his homeland.
Slavery existed in New York from the earliest days of Dutch settlement.
With white immigration lagging behind that of Pennsylvania, the Hudson Valley landlords, small farmers, and craftsmen continued to use slave labor.
Slavery in the city expanded as New York City's role in the slave trade expanded.
In 1746, it had 2,440 slaves, which made up 20% of the city's total population.
Thirty percent of its laborers were slaves, second only to Charleston among American cities.
Most slaves worked in all sectors of the economy.
Ten percent of the total population of New York and New Jersey were slaves.
Slavery was a significant presence in Philadelphia, although the institution was stagnant after 1750 as artisans and merchants relied more on wage laborers, who were augmented by population growth and the completion of the terms of indentured servants.
Wage labor, which could be hired and fired at will, made more economic sense than a long-term investment in slaves in an urban economy that expanded and contracted according to the ups and downs of international trade.
Demand for sugar, rice, coffee, and tobacco has led to the systematic importation of African slaves from their native continent across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World.
From the late sixteenth to the early nineteenth century, 12 million American agricultural products were transported back to Europe from the Americas and the Caribbean via the middle leg of the "Triangular Trade".
The mixing of African and white cultures among the era's slaves can be seen in the clothing.
John Rose is the owner of a rice plantation in South Carolina.
Nearly 300,000 Africans were brought to the mainland colonies in the 18th century.
They were from different cultures, spoke different languages, and practiced many religions.
The diverse groups that were transported to the British colonies in the Middle Passage would eventually emerge as African-American people.
Slavery brought together individuals who had never met one another and who had never considered their color or residence on a single continent as a source of identity or unity.
Their bond was not kinship, language, or even race, but slavery itself.
The process of creating a cohesive culture and community took many years, and it proceeded at different rates in different regions.
By the 19th century, slaves no longer identified themselves as Ibo, Ashanti, Yoruba, and so on, but as African-Americans.
In music, art, folklore, language, and religion, their cultural expressions emerged as a synthesis of African traditions, European elements, and new conditions in America.
Most of the American slaves were African by birth.
Advertisements seeking information about runaways are often described by African origin.
Black life in the colonies was re-Africanized as the earlier creoles came to be outnumbered by large-scale imports from Africa.
Compared with the earliest generation of slaves, the newcomers worked harder, died earlier, and had less freedom.
The transition from traditional religions to Christianity was the most difficult for African slaves in the colonies.
The region of the Sahara Desert has seen the spread of Islam.
The slaves who ended up in British North America were from the forest regions of West Africa.
Belief in the presence of spiritual forces in nature and a close relationship between the sacred and secular worlds were some of the elements shared by these religions.
West Africans, like Europeans, believed in a single "Creator of all things," who "governs events" on earth, but otherwise their religious beliefs seemed more similar to those of Native Americans than to Christianity.
There was no distinction between the spiritual and secular worlds in West African religions.
The majority of North American slaves practiced traditional African religions, which many Europeans considered to be superstition or even witchcraft, well into the eighteenth century.
When they adopted Protestant religious practices, many slaves added the Christian God to their own pantheon of lesser spirits.
In slave societies like Brazil and Cuba, African spirits merged with Catholic saints.
African-American cultures were created by the slave systems in British North America.
Because of a more healthful climate, the slave population began to reproduce itself by 1740, creating a more balanced sex ratio than in the 17th century, and making possible the creation of family-centered slave communities.
Slaves were exposed to white culture because of the small size of most plantations and the large number of white yeoman farmers.
Many were swept up in the religious revivals known as the Great Awakening after they learned English.
Two very different black societies emerged in Georgia and South Carolina.
Slaves lived in harsh conditions and had a low birthrate, making rice production dependent on continued slave imports from Africa.
The slaves were more free in the colonies than whites were.
The larger structures of their lives were established by slavery, but they were able to create an African-based culture.
They used African names for their children and spoke a language that was unintelligible to most whites.
Despite a continuing slave trade, slaves slowly created families and communities that bridged generations.
Slaves who worked in Charleston and Savannah as servants and skilled workers had a different experience.
The sexual liaisons between white owners and slave women produced the beginnings of a class of free mulattos.
Four runaway slaves from New York City are being sought for return.
Note the description of the fugitives' clothing and the diversity of their names, both of which are English, one of African origin and one alluding to ancient Rome.
A large amount of money was offered in the colonial era.
A distinctive African-American culture developed more slowly in the northern colonies where slaves were a smaller part of the population.
Slaves living in close proximity to whites enjoyed more mobility and access to the mainstream of life than their counterparts farther south.
They didn't have as many opportunities to create stable family life or a cohesive community.
The desire for freedom and the experience of slavery are the common threads that link these regional African-American cultures.
Blacks risked their lives to resist enslavement.
Runaway slaves were advertised in the newspapers of the southern colonies.
Most of the fugitives were young African men.
They fled to Florida, uninhabited coastal and river swamps, or to Charleston and Savannah, where they could pass for free.
The New World's slaves had a dangerous spirit of liberty.
In 1712 a group of slaves set fire to houses on the outskirts of New York City and killed the first nine whites who arrived on the scene.
Some of the conspirators were tortured and burned alive in order to intimidate the slave population.
The door to slave resistance was opened during the 1730s and 1740s by continuous warfare between Europeans and Indians.
Efforts to introduce the plantation system in Louisiana were temporarily halted in 1731 due to a slave rebellion.
There were uprisings in the Virgin Islands and on the French island of Guadeloupe.
In exchange for their freedom, British authorities agreed to return future escapees.
The War of Jenkins' Ear gave slaves the chance to revolt against England.
In September 1739, a group of South Carolina slaves, most of them recently arrived from Kongo, where some may have been soldiers, seized a store containing numerous weapons at the town of Stono.
Some 100 slaves were added to the group.
The rebels were dispersed after a battle.
More than two dozen whites and as many as 200 slaves were killed in the rebellion.
In 1740, some slaves were armed by the Spanish to help repel an attack on St. Augustine by a force from Georgia.
The South Carolina slave code was tightened and a tax was imposed on imported slaves after the Stono Rebellion.
In 1741, a panic swept New York City, similar to the fear of witches in Salem in the 1690s.
Rumors spread that slaves, with some white allies, planned to burn part of the city, seize weapons, and either turn New York over to Spain or kill the white population.
More than 150 blacks and 20 whites were arrested, and 34 of them were executed.
Historians don't agree on whether the plot was extensive or not.
Dreams of freedom in America were not limited by race.
The majority of white families in the Old South did not own slaves.
A slave uprising in South Carolina in 1739 resulted in a severe tightening of the slave code and a tax on imported slaves.
Great Britain prided itself on being the world's most advanced and freest nation despite its ties to slavery.
The home of the greatest naval and commercial power of the era was also the home of a complex governmental system with a powerful Parliament representing the interests of a self-confident landed aristocracy and merchant class.
In London, the largest city in Europe with a population approaching 1 million by the end of the 18th century, Britain had a single political-cultural- economic capital.
It had a common law, common language, and common devotion to Protestantism, with the exception of a small number of Jews, Catholics, and Africans.
France replaced Spain as Britain's main continental rival in the 18th century.
The development of a large military establishment, high taxes, and the creation of the Bank of England were all caused by this situation.
War helped sharpen a sense of national identity for both Britons and colonists.