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Portrait of Olaudah Equiano

Portrait of Olaudah Equiano

Shelfmark: 1489.g.50

Throughout most of the narratives about this period in the Caribbean, the missing voice is that of the slaves. This is an exact parallel to their location in most of the illustrations, where they are seen, either as part of an anonymous crowd, or hovering behind their masters, marked out only by some symbol of their servitude, a whip, a cup, or a hoe. By contrast Olaudah Equiano is pictured in miniature on the frontispiece of his book, elegantly dressed in a snow white neck tie, his eyes gleaming out at the world; this is no mere survivor.
A handful of accounts by former slaves survive due to good graces of missionaries and abolitionists. In most cases these individuals tell their stories and disappear. Not Equiano: instead, his best selling book provides evidence of the effect with which he surmounted all the impossible circumstances in which he found himself.

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