Term Paper: Olaudah Equiano / Prince Slave

Pages: 7 (2527 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: American History  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] S. Embassy in Morocco. This results in correspondence, an exchange of letters in order to secure the Prince's freedom. In fact the Sultan of Morocco initiates correspondence with President John Quincy Adams. Somehow the president is convinced that The Prince deserves a chance to be free to John Quincy Adams writes directly to farmer Foster to "…let Abdul Rahman go" (PBS).

Foster is reluctant, but he lets The Prince go, under one condition: "That Abdul Rahman was not to enjoy the rights of a free man in the United States -- he was to travel directly to Africa" (PBS, p. 2). Did The Prince agree to that deal? No, he defied the edict, and instead he tried hard to secure the freedom of his wife (which he does), but he can't pay the price needed to get his children and grandchildren out of bondage. He gives lectures and eventually meets with the president, who will not pay the money needed to free his family.

So he leaves the U.S. without his children and after four months in Africa, he dies; and the PBS article notes that "…to this day, the legacy of…the prince among slaves lives on in his descendants."

Another article goes deeper into the above-mentioned story, and contradicts earlier articles. In the University of North Carolina's publication, Documenting the American South, Patrick Horn asserts that The Prince had actually achieved his freedom thanks to "…the agency of President John Quincy Adams," and hence The Prince set off on the voyage that was supposed to take him to his birthplace in Timbuktu (now the nation of Mali) (Horn, 2007). However the article by Horn reports that The Prince only got as far as the American colony in Monrovia, Liberia, and shortly thereafter The Prince passed away.

Comparing The Prince with Equiano

It was not an easy life for either one of these Africans take as slaves. It would seem that The Prince had the better of the bargain, because he was with one farmer (Foster) and actually helped Foster reach a high level of success and wealth, and there was no report of whippings or cruel treatment. That said, it was heartbreaking for The Prince that he had to put up with the hardships of being a slave who was unable to break away. Even more heartbreaking for The Prince was when he ran into the doctor whose life was apparently save by The Prince's father; that would seem to have been a fortuitous break for The Prince and his hopes were no doubt raised quite high by the possibility of freedom. But it wasn't to be, and back to bondage he was force to go.

As for Equiano, he had the misfortune to be sold several times and then, believing he had finally landed with a man who respected him and appreciated his stewardship (Pascal), he is again let down and sold away. The good news for Equiano is learning English, learning European culture and having the chance to have two women support his education. He likely never would have been afforded that opportunity in chains in the American South. Still, the lives that both these slaves led seems from the perspective of history to be if not a lot better than the fate of most slaves, at least somewhat less brutal in terms of the whippings and inhumane beatings many slaves had to endure.

Frederick Douglass on Slavery

Probably the most noteworthy and famous missive presented by Frederick Douglass is his 1852 essay, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" Douglass of course is the brilliant African who collaborated with antislavery organizations and in general distinguished himself as an intellectual and a brilliant orator. The Fourth of July is the day that celebrates the political freedom of Americans, and Douglass couldn't resist point out the irony that he was asked to speak at such an august gathering of Americans. America was right and England was wrong, he asserted, and the men who stood up to the British at the time of the Revolution were "plotters of mischief, agitators and rebels, dangerous men" (Douglass, 1852).

Of course, those plotting against slavery were also considered agitators and rebels, and like the original revolutionaries that stood up to England, who believe they were "victims of grievous wrongs," the slaves certainly have felt that they have been victims as well. Douglass was brilliant at linking one injustice with another. And he had a rapt audience that day. His rhetoric was likely more literate and certainly more profound than either of the two slaves featured in this paper, but he was speaking for them in every sense. He was pointing out that while the nation celebrates its independence, there remains an entire culture that does not enjoy the fruits of that American independence. The fathers of the republic "did, most deliberately," Douglass explained, "lay deep the corner-stone of the national superstructure, which has risen and still rises in grandeur around you" (Douglass, p. 5).

In conclusion, the irony is that that national superstructure -- as Douglass spoke -- did not embrace or protect the slaves who were obliged to work in bondage. And it would not embrace those slaves until Lincoln pushed through the 13th Amendment making slavery illegal in the U.S. And even after that there would be many years before African-Americans would have any semblance of freedom to work and live as others of European ethnicity could and did live.

Works Cited

Douglass, Frederick. "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" Teaching American History.

Retrieved December 19, 2012, from http://teachingamericanhistory.org.

Islamicity.com. "A True Story of a Prince Among Slaves." Retrieved December 19, 2012,

from http://www.icna.org.

Public Broadcasting Service. "Prince Among Slaves." Retrieved December 19, 2012, from http://www.pbs.org.

Voelker, David J. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus

The Africa. London, 1789.

Williamson, Jenn. "Olaudah Equiano, b. 1745 / The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah

Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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