African Abolitionists

A key role was also played by a small group of black abolitionists who formed a group known as the Sons of Africa. Among them was Olaudah Equiano, of Nigerian origin. An ex-slave who traveled widely and was at one time or another a servant, a hairdresser, a miner, and a ship’s steward, Equiano emerged in his forties as an important spokesman for the early abolitionist movement. He described some of his experiences in his enormously successful Interesting Narrative (1789), which remains probably the most complete account of the enslaved experience in the eighteenth century.

In 1791 Equiano spent more than eight and half months touring Ireland. The following year he visited Scotland and spoke to meetings in Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Durham, and Hull. At the same time, he wrote articles and reviews for the Public Advertiser and was personally acquainted with abolitionists Granville Sharp and Sir William Dolben.

Together with Sharp and another free African, Ottobah Cugoano—a Fante from Ghana who had been enslaved in Grenada—Equiano also helped to publicize the 1781 Zong case, in which the British owners of the slave ship Zong attempted to claim insurance on 133 Africans from São Tomé who had been thrown overboard when an epidemic spread.