Slavery Through the Life of Olaudah Equiano
Have been kidnapped at the early age of eleven, Equiano was forced to work as a slave for several masters. He bought his freedom in 1766, married and died in 1797. He recounts in an autobiography how he contemplated suicide after losing his best friend, a black slave, who was brutally murdered by his master. “The white people looked and acted, as I thought, in so savage a manner; for I had never seen among any people such instances of brutal cruelty” (Equiano, 54-8).
He was not only painfully treated, but also physiologically disturbed. He wished in more than one occasion to be sacrificed, so he would not need to bear the agony he was living. Working for a merchant, Equiano recalls the nights he and the other slaves spent together under the deck of a vessel almost suffocating from the want of fresh air, hearing the sorrows and crying, and wishing to eat without getting any food from the white people.
This moving story is just one among millions, all those people that were private from their freedom, treated as objects and killed after many years of torture. Olaudah Equiano’s autobiography attempts to spread the horrors of slavery, so the world knows how terrible these attacks were and prevent history to re-emerge with unjustness like this.
The Thirteenth Amendment and the Gettysburg Address
Two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and Lincoln declaring slaves as free men in the states waging war against the Union, the word slave was never mentioned as a legal term; instead ‘the free persons’ and ‘the freedman’ were used to avoid the using of the word that seemed to bother people, especially those who condemned innocent women, man and children, abused and tortured them for years. On December 6, 1865 the reelect president ensure the abolition of slavery whit the statement: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction” (United States Constitution, Thirteenth Amendment, Section 1).
This first attempt to free millions of black slaves was an action to suppress the rebellion and to enrol them into the American forces, and deter intervention by Britain and France. That maybe was Lincoln’s first mission, but he did slowly lead slaves to freedom in the entire country. And is during the Civil War, that the President gives one of the most-know speeches in American history: The Gettysburg Address, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 1863. Through this speech he described the U.S.A. as a free nation where men are created equal, and for black people that was a turning point to brighter days.
African-American Communities and Today’s Situation
Some say that the Constitution changed the concept of slavery to prisoners and with that, they moved black people from plantation to jail. In the Southern states is where probably there are more cases of abuse from this misconception. Racism and the deplorable working conditions for not-white people are still a constant issue. Thus, things have changed for African-Americans to the point that Barack Obama was elected and loved as President of the United States, acts of hate against not just black but also Hispanic, Asian, Arabic and some other foreign ethnicities are a daily-basis problem within the country.
Stories of the oppressed people still echo through all states and within the entire World. Therefore, this is not just a Constitutional situation, but also a cultural illness that stops people from perceiving themselves as equals and treat others just as they would like to be treated. Fortunately, nowadays associations are willing to fight for everyone’s rights, to bring communities together and finally remember those stories, as they are, a part of our history and not a dark, awful shadow that still hunts and jeopardizes our lives.
04- 2019 Article for Livingston Research
Douglass, Frederick. Narrative in the Life of an American Slave. Published at the Anti Slavery Office. (Boston, 1845) pp. 1-108
Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano Written by Himself. Ed. By Robert J. Allison (Boston, 1995), pp. 54-8.
U. S. Constitution. Art. /Amend. XIII, Sec.1