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Report. Answering the five question after reading the article. Then discuss what you consider its historical significance within the context of its general

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Report. Answering the five question after reading the article. Then discuss what you consider its historical significance within the context of its general period in American history. ٢٠٢١/٩/٦Narrative of the Enslavement of a Native of Africa (1787) OTTOBAH CUGOANO، ٩:٤٩ م

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I

O T T OB A H C U G O A N O

Narrative of the Enslavement of

a Native of Africa (1787)

From the fifteenth century through the nineteenth, Europeans—

most significantly the Dutch and the English—carried an estimated

10 to 12 million Africans across the Atlantic Ocean in the largest

forced migration in world history. The harrowing experience

aboard the slave ships was referred to as the “Middle Passage,” so

called because it was the second of a three-part journey: ships

would carry gold and European manufactured goods to trade to

Africans for slaves; then, laden with men, women, and children, the

ships headed westward across the Atlantic; having deposited their

“cargo” in the Americas, the ships would return to Europe carrying

American agricultural products such as sugar, rice, and tobacco.

Of the millions of people forced to endure the experience of

enslavement and the Middle Passage, only a very few left behind

firsthand accounts. One of them was Ottobah Cugoano (ca. 1757–?),

an African born in present-day Ghana who was captured and

enslaved at the age of thirteen. Surviving the Middle Passage,

Cugoano experienced the brutal working conditions on a sugar

plantation on the Caribbean island of Grenada. Taken to England

by his master in 1772, Cugoano taught himself to read and write,

converted to Christianity, and took the name John Stuart. After his

emancipation, he spent much of the next two decades fighting for

the abolition of slavery. His story, published as Thoughts and

Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Slavery and

Commerce of the Human Species, first appeared in 1787. Four years

later, in 1791, Cugoano published another edition of his work. After

this, Cugoano, like most of the untold millions of other Africans

ensnared in the international slave trade, disappears from the

historical record.

From The Negro’s Memorial, or, Abolitionist’s Catechism (London:

Hatchard and Co., and J. and A. Arch, 1825), 120–27 of appendix.

was early snatched away from my native country, with about

eighteen or twenty more boys and girls, as we were playing in

a field. We lived but a few days’ journey from the coast where

we were kidnapped, and as we were decoyed and drove along, we

were soon conducted to a factory, and from thence, in the

٢٠٢١/٩/٦Narrative of the Enslavement of a Native of Africa (1787) OTTOBAH CUGOANO، ٩:٤٩ م

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fashionable way of traffic, consigned to Grenada. Perhaps it may

not be amiss to give a few remarks, as some account of myself, in

this transposition of captivity.

I was born in the city of Agimaque, on the coast of Fantyn:1 my

father was a companion to the chief in that part of the country of

Fantee, and when the old king died I was left in his house with his

family; soon after I was sent for by his nephew, Ambro Accasa, who

succeeded the old king in the chiefdom of that part of Fantee,

known by the name of Agimaque and Assinee. I lived with his

children, enjoying peace and tranquillity, about twenty moons,

which, according to their way of reckoning time, is two years. I

was sent for to visit an uncle, who lived at a considerable distance

from Agimaque. The first day after we set out we arrived at

Assinee, and the third day at my uncle’s habitation, where I lived

about three months, and was then thinking of returning to my

father and young companion at Agimaque; but by this time I had

got well acquainted with some of the children of my uncle’s

hundreds of relations, and we were some days too venturesome in

going into the woods to gather fruit and catch birds and such

amusements as pleased us. One day . . . we went into the woods, as

usual but we had not been above two hours, before our troubles

began, when several great ruffians came upon us suddenly, and

said we had committed a fault against their lord, and we must go

and answer for it ourselves before him.

Some of us attempted, in vain, to run away, but pistols and

cutlasses were soon introduced, threatening, that if we offered to

stir, we should all lie dead on the spot. One of them pretended to

be more friendly than the rest, and said that he would speak to

their lord to get us clear, and desired that we should follow him;

we were then immediately divided into different parties, and drove

after him.

* * *

I soon became very uneasy, not knowing what to do, and

refused to eat or drink, for whole days together, till the man of the

house told me that he would do all in his power to get me back to

my uncle; then I eat a little fruit with him, and had some thoughts

that I should be sought after, as I would be then missing at home

about five or six days. I inquired every day if the men had come

back, and for the rest of my companions, but could get no answer

of any satisfaction. I was kept about six days at this man’s house,

and in the evening there was another man came, and talked with

him a good while and I heard the one say to the other he must go,

and the other said, the sooner the better; that man came out and

told me that he knew my relations at Agimaque, and that we must

٢٠٢١/٩/٦Narrative of the Enslavement of a Native of Africa (1787) OTTOBAH CUGOANO، ٩:٤٩ م

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set out to-morrow morning, and he would convey me there.

Accordingly we set out next day, and travelled till dark, when we

came to a place where we had some supper and slept. He carried a

large bag, with some gold dust, which he said he had to buy some

goods at the sea-side to take with him to Agimaque. Next day we

travelled on, and in the evening came to a town, where I saw

several white people, which made me afraid that they would eat

me, according to our notion, as children, in the inland parts of the

country. This made me rest very uneasy all the night, and next

morning I had some victuals brought, desiring me to eat and make

haste, as my guide and kidnapper told me that he had to go to the

castle with some company that were going there, as he had told

me before, to get some goods. After I was ordered out, the horrors

I soon saw and felt, cannot be well described; I saw many of my

miserable countrymen chained two and two, some handcuffed,

and some with their hands tied behind. We were conducted along

by a guard, and when we arrived at the castle, I asked my guide

what I was brought there for, he told me to learn the ways of the

browfow, that is, the white-faced people. I saw him take a gun, a

piece of cloth, and some lead for me, and then he told me that he

must now leave me there, and went off. This made me cry bitterly,

but I was soon conducted to a prison, for three days, where I

heard the groans and cries of many, and saw some of my fellow-

captives. But when a vessel arrived to conduct us away to the ship,

it was a most horrible scene; there was nothing to be heard but

the rattling of chains, smacking of whips, and the groans and cries

of our fellow-men. Some would not stir from the ground, when

they were lashed and beat in the most horrible manner. I have

forgot the name of this infernal fort; but we were taken in the ship

that came for us, to another that was ready to sail from Cape

Coast.2 When we were put into the ship, we saw several black

merchants coming on board, but we were all drove into our holes,

and not suffered to speak to any of them. In this situation we

continued several days in sight of our native land; but I could find

no good person to give any information of my situation to Accasa

at Agimaque. And when we found ourselves at last taken away,

death was more preferable than life; and a plan was concerted

amongst us, that we might burn and blowup the ship, and to

perish all together in the flames: but we were betrayed by one of

our own countrywomen, who slept with some of the headmen of

the ship, for it was common for the dirty filthy sailors to take the

African women and lie upon their bodies; but the men were

chained and pent up in holes. It was the women and boys which

٢٠٢١/٩/٦Narrative of the Enslavement of a Native of Africa (1787) OTTOBAH CUGOANO، ٩:٤٩ م

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were to burn the ship, with the approbation and groans of the rest;

though that was prevented, the discovery was likewise a cruel

bloody scene.

But it would be needless to give a description of all the horrible

scenes which we saw, and the base treatment which we met with

in this dreadful captive situation, as the similar cases of thousands,

which suffer by this infernal traffic, are well known. Let it suffice

to say that I was thus lost to my dear indulgent parents and

relations, and they to me. All my help was cries and tears, and

these could not avail, nor suffered long, till one succeeding woe

and dread swelled up another. Brought from a state of innocence

and freedom, and, in a barbarous and cruel manner, conveyed to a

state of horror and slavery, this abandoned situation may be easier

conceived than described. From the time that I was kidnapped,

and conducted to a factory,3 and from thence in the brutish, base,

but fashionable way of traffic, consigned to Grenada, the grievous

thoughts which I then felt, still pant in my heart; though my fears

and tears have long since subsided. And yet it is still grievous to

think that thousands more have suffered in similar and greater

distress, under the hands of barbarous robbers, and merciless

task-masters; and that many, even now, are suffering in all the

extreme bitterness of grief and woe, that no language can describe

. . . Being in this dreadful captivity and horrible slavery, without

any hope of deliverance, for about eight or nine months, beholding

the most dreadful scenes of misery and cruelty, and seeing my

miserable companions often cruelly lashed, and, as it were, cut to

pieces, for the most trifling faults; this made me often tremble and

weep, but I escaped better than many of them. For eating a piece

of sugar-cane, some were cruelly lashed, or struck over the face,

to knock their teeth out. Some of the stouter ones, I suppose,

often reproved, and grown hardened and stupid with many cruel

beatings and lashings, or perhaps faint and pressed with hunger

and hard labour, were often committing trespasses of this kind,

and when detected, they met with exemplary punishment. Some

told me they had their teeth pulled out, to deter others, and to

prevent them from eating any cane in future. Thus seeing my

miserable companions and countrymen in this pitiful, distressed,

and horrible situation, with all the brutish baseness and barbarity

attending it, could not but fill my little mind horror and

Indignation. But I must own, to the shame of my own countrymen,

that I was first kidnapped and betrayed by some of my own

complexion, who were the first cause of my exile, and slavery; but

if there were no buyers there would be no sellers. So far as I can

remember, some of the Africans in my country keep slaves, which

they take in war, or for debt; but those which they keep are well

٢٠٢١/٩/٦Narrative of the Enslavement of a Native of Africa (1787) OTTOBAH CUGOANO، ٩:٤٩ م

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fed, and good care taken of them, and treated well; and as to their

clothing, they differ according to the custom of the country. But I

may safely say, that all the poverty and misery that any of the

inhabitants of Africa meet with among themselves, is far inferior to

those inhospitable regions of misery which they meet with in the

West-Indies, where their hard-hearted overseers have neither

Regard to the laws of God, nor the life of their fellow-men.

Thanks be to God, I was delivered from Grenada, and that

horrid brutal slavery. A gentleman coming to England took me for

his servant, and brought me away, where I soon found my

situation become more agreeable. After coming to England, and

seeing others write and read, I had a strong desire to learn, and

getting what assistance I could, I applied myself to learn reading

and writing, which soon became my recreation, pleasure, and

delight; and when my master perceived that I could write some, he

sent me to a proper school for that purpose to learn. Since, I have

endeavoured to improve my mind in reading, and have sought to

get all the intelligence I could, in my situation of life, towards the

state of my brethren and countrymen in complexion, and of the

miserable situation of those who are barbarously sold into

captivity, and unlawfully held in slavery.

Study Questions

1.  How was Cugoano enslaved?

2.  What was Cugoano’s reaction to the first sight of Europeans?

What did Cugoano experience aboard the slave ship?

3.  What became of Cugoano when he landed in the New World?

How was his fate different from that of the millions of other

Africans who were forced into slavery?

4.  What distinctions does Cugoano make between slavery as

practiced in Africa and slavery in the West Indies?

5.  What does Cugoano’s writing reveal about the nature of his

eventual education? about his intended audience?

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