The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African

by Gustavas Vassa
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What reaction do you think The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African received after it was published in 1789?

The reaction to The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African after it was published in 1789 was generally mixed. To a large extent, the book's reception depended on the political opinions of those who read it. Supporters of the slave trade accused Equiano of lying. Opponents of the slave trade, on the other hand, saw The Interesting Narrative as a valuable tool of propaganda in their ongoing fight for abolition.

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The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African caused quite a sensation when it was first published in 1789. The first authentic slave narrative, Equiano's autobiographical account of his experiences was a truly groundbreaking work which gave many Westerners their first real insight into...

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The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African caused quite a sensation when it was first published in 1789. The first authentic slave narrative, Equiano's autobiographical account of his experiences was a truly groundbreaking work which gave many Westerners their first real insight into the horrors of the slave trade.

Even so, there were many who were strongly opposed to The Interesting Narrative. A number of critics accused Equiano of blurring fact and fiction. Some went even further and accused him of lying. Such attacks on Equiano's credibility were often shot through with racism, which, at that time, was almost universal in Western society. Even those who heartily detested slavery and welcomed the publication of Equiano's book didn't believe in the principle of racial equality.

Nevertheless, The Interesting Narrative was enthusiastically championed by abolitionists, who saw it as a useful weapon in the ongoing campaign against the evils of slavery. Leading figures in society, such as the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, were eloquent defenders of Equiano's book, which they saw as a particularly savage indictment of the continued injustice against Black people.

Equiano found a particularly receptive audience among British and Irish radicals. He followed up this enthusiastic reception by embarking upon a five-year book tour of Britain and Ireland to promote The Interesting Narrative. Many radicals came to see the abolition of slavery as a key component of their cause, and there's little doubt that Equiano's autobiography played a major part in this regard, in addition to raising awareness of slavery and helping turn it into a major political issue.

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