Tuesday 5th January 2021
LC- To share an emotional response to a text.
Remember Olaudah Equiano from yesterday? The poor boy was taken prisoner with his sister. This is what happened next.
The next day Olaudah was separated from his sister. He never saw her again.
He was forced into a slave boat and chained to other prisoners. The boat sailed all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to North America. This must have been a lonely and terrifying journey.
In the days of slavery, children bought and sold as slaves had to do whatever their owners told them to do. Olaudah was bought by a British Royal Navy officer called Michael Pascal, who took him to sea. When the ships were in dock, Olaudah stayed with friends of Pascal, who encouraged him to go to school. He was very excited about this and soon learnt to read and write. However, when the ships sailed again Olaudah had to leave school and go back to sea.
At this time, Britain and France were at war. Both countries wanted control of North America and the Caribbean. During many battles at sea, Olaudah had the very dangerous job of carrying gunpowder to each of the ship's guns.
Even though he was forced to work, he worked hard and was very brave and loyal.
During wartime, the crew of a ship shared the value of the treasure they stole from other ships. Olaudah hoped that he would be given a share of this, but his greatest dream was being given his freedom.
However, Olaudah never got his prize money as Pascal sold him to another sea captain. Olaudah tried to resist, but was threatened with having his throat cut. He was taken to the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean where he was sold again to a merchant called Robert King, who owned a sugar cane plantation. His dream of being free had been destroyed.
Although Olaudah didn't work on the plantation, he soon became familiar with the horrors of the plantation world. He saw slave owners living in luxury while their slaves lived in tiny, cramped cabins that weren't fit for human beings.
He saw slaves working in terrible conditions, starved and beaten by their owners. Slaves were punished for not working fast enough, being late, speaking back to their masters, or trying to run away. A slave could even be punished
for being weak or too ill to work.
The punishments included imprisonment, torture and whippings. The ultimate punishment was death - on the plantations the killing of a slave was never regarded as murder.
R- What were slaves punished for?
I - Olaudah was a slave but didn't work on the plantation. From what you have learned about him, why do you think this was?
Olaudah realised that only his education had saved him. He was considered a valuable slave because he could read and write and work with numbers. He was given the job of 'gauger', someone who weighed and measured the sugar cane. But every day he saw the cruelty and this made him determined to be free and fight for the freedom of all slaves.
Olaudah was paid a little for his work. He saved every penny, eating very little and working very hard. After three long years, he had saved £40, (£2,000 in today's money). This was the price of his freedom. Robert King accepted the £40 and let him go free.
It had taken Olaudah ten hard years, but at the age of 21 he was able to go to England as a free man. He wrote, "My feet scarcely touched the ground, for they were winged with joy... this was the happiest day I had ever experienced.
Soon after, Olaudah arrived in England. He trained as a hairdresser, then later went back to sea as a steward on board a ship. In 1768 he worked for Doctor Charles Irving, who allowed him to continue with his education. Over the next few years, Olaudah went on different voyages to the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.
In 1773 Olaudah took on a new challenge. He joined an important expedition with explorers who hoped to find a new route to Asia across the North Pole. This undiscovered route was known as the Northwest Passage. The expedition set off on a ship called The Racehorse and took four months. Olaudah saw many unusual sights such as giant icebergs and polar bears.
However, when The Racehorse reached the Arctic Ocean, disaster struck. The temperature fell and the sea froze, so that Olaudah's ship was trapped in the ice. The crew was terrified. The ice could easily squeeze The Racehorse to pieces. The captain ordered everyone to cut the ice from around the ship to stop the ship breaking up. Olaudah worked hard with the other sailors. The thought of dying in the icy waters of the Artic filled him and the rest of the crew with terror.
After 11 days, the weather became warmer and the ice around the ship began to melt. The crew was now able to sail into open water, glad to have escaped a frozen death. The ship managed to set course for home and eventually arrived in London a month later. Although the Northwest Passage hadn't been found this time, the expedition in The Racehorse was still regarded as a great scientific success.
After this adventure Olaudah joined a group of people who tried to set up a new type of plantation on the Caribbean coast of Central America. They wanted to establish a kinder plantation that would provide slaves with better food, housing and medical care. This was in 1775, a time when slavery was a normal part of society. Perhaps even Olaudah didn't yet dare to dream that slavery could be abolished completely.
The group included Englishmen like Dr Irving, who knew that Olaudah had already worked in plantations before and hoped that he would reassure the slaves that they would be treated fairly. Also in the group were Miskito Indians, who were returning home after living in England for 12 months. They also hoped to set up a new kind of plantation.
Olaudah set sail for the Caribbean. But when the ship docked in Central America he was cheated of his wages by the captain of his ship. Olaudah also nearly became a slave again when the captain refused to believe that he had bought his freedom!
Write about your feelings about Olaudah and what happened to him.
Consider his feelings at different times from being a slave to earning his freedom and finally nearly becoming a slave again. What might his hopes have been? What fears did he have?
How would you have felt /behaved in his situation?