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British Slave Trade

Imagine being eleven years old and becoming a slave. This is what happened to Olaudah Equiano, a Nigerian boy, when he was left at home to look after the house with his sister while the grown ups were out working the fields.

Equiano Olaudah
Equiano Olaudah

Olaudah Equiano became one of the 12 million who were shipped across the Atlantic from Africa to the Americas during the period of Atlantic slave trade. His story is exceptional as he ended up as a free man who would fight actively for abolishing the slave trade.

The Atlantic slave trade started with the European exploration of the African coast in the 15th and 16th centuries which led to a brutal and lucrative slave trade on an enormous scale, lasting for about 250 years. Slavery as such was put to an end in 1833 in Britain. In the USA, where the fight over the issue partly led to the outbreak of the Civil War between the Northern and Southern states, it was abolished in 1863.

By listening to this audio file you should be able to jot down clues regarding the questions listed below.

British Slave Trade (16:22 )

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British Slave Trade - audio

Tasks and Activities

Comprehension

  1. What impression do you get of Georgian England from the programme?
  2. What part did Britain play in the Atlantic slave trade in the 18th century?
  3. What made the Caribbean a very important destination for the slave traders?
  4. How did the slave traders get hold of slaves?
  5. Look into the observations and comments of Olaudah Equianao who became a spokesman for the abolition of slavery. What does he say about how he was caught?
  6. What were the conditions like during the Atlantic crossing?
  7. How did the slaves react when they reached their destination on Barbados?
  8. In the beginning most slaves were sent to the Caribbean as the American colonies were a bit wary of importing slaves. What did they fear? What made them gradually change their minds throughout the 18th century?

Find Out

  1. Olaudah Equianao was also known as Gustavus Vassa. Look up his biography and make a digital story about his extraordinary life.
  2. Based on information from the audio file and the net, make a timeline about the Atlantic slave trade where you provide important years, numbers, places and main incidents. Start by settling when, where and how the traffic started and close with how, when and where it was abolished.

Vocabulary

These are verbs that are relevant in the text. Find the nouns: abolish, emancipate, liberate, free, captivate, relieve, kidnap, survive, resist, refresh, sell, die, trade

Discuss

  1. What do you find most appalling or incomprehensible about the slave trade as it is described here?
  2. Is slavery abolished? Consider current issues, like human trafficking, prostitution and child labour.

Recommended Film

Amistad by Steven Spielberg (1997), based on a true story about a slave mutiny on board a slave ship in 1839.

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