Eighteenthcentury African Christian leaders

A brief expose of the careers of some of these eighteenth-century figures will carry our story forward. There is the biography of Olaudah Equiano, an indefatigable antislavery campaigner who worked on both sides of the Atlantic to mobilize progressive opinion to abolish the slave trade and advance Africa's economic development. There is, to be sure, a question about Equiano's African credentials, with some indication that he was in fact born in the American South and not in Nigeria, as he himself claimed. Be that as it may, Equiano's importance for our subject is independent of any questions about his birth. Tradition claims an Igbo origin for him as 'Ekwuno'. He himself claimed that he arrived as a slave on a Virginia plantation in 1757. He went through a series of remarkable adventures, and in one place he recounted his conversion experience on a ship in Cadiz. Campaigning in Britain in 1789 in the year of the French Revolution, Equiano described slavery as a human rights issue, and insisted that its perpetuation was an obstacle both to human progress and to Africa's economic advancement. Motives ofself-interest, he contended, should be joined to those of justice and humanity to give no quarter to the slave trade and slavery.

Equiano made an early bid for a leadership role in the antislavery movement. His autobiographical work, The Life of Olaudah Equiano, was an acute study of the social effects of slavery on the African continent and on Europeans' relations with Africans. He recounts how in 1779 his request to be ordained for missionary service in Africa was turned down by the Bishop of London. In 1783 he was in London calling on Granville Sharp, the antislavery humanitarian, to bring to Sharp's attention the fate of 130 Africans who were thrown into the sea from a slave ship to allow the owners fraudulently to claim insurance compensation, a revelation that had a profound and immediate effect on Sharp and on parliament. Equiano joined forces with another ex-slave, the Fanti, Ottobah Cugoano, who in 1787 had written a book, Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evils of the Slavery, possibly with the collaboration of Equiano. Cugoano's work was

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