Olaudah Equiano

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What caused Olaudah Equiano's death?

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Olaudah Equiano is believed to have died of natural causes in 1797.

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Olaudah Equiano (or Gustavus Vassa) appears to have died of natural causes in England in 1797. At the time, he was married to Susanna Cullen, an Englishwoman, and had two daughters.

Equiano's death is not documented in his book, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, as it is an autobiography. His memoir rather concludes with a passionate argument against the slave trade, a grateful recognition of God's involvement in his life, and an examination of the "lesson of morality and religion" that he alludes to as a quality of spirit that enhances one's ability to learn. Those who do not possess such a spirit, and do not appreciate the truth of Equiano's narrative as a result, are "others [to whom] the experience of ages seems of no use; and even to pour out to them the treasures of wisdom is throwing the jewels of instruction away." In concluding his narrative by discrediting the ethos of those who do not appreciate the validity of his experience, he challenges readers to accept the truth of his writing as the truth of all enslaved persons, finalizing his written argument for abolition.

Equiano remained an active abolitionist throughout the duration of his life, but consistently did so in a way that appeals to the white majority for sociopolitical approval. As a result, much of his account reinforces the legitimacy of white privilege despite its unvarnished accounts of the brutalities of slavery.

Regardless, Equiano's narrative is a revolutionary testament of the horrors of the slave trade, and his efforts to end slavery were widely admired beyond the day he died.

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