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Modern Voices
Catherine Ancholou on the difference between African slavery and American slavery
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Q: Describe the difference between African slavery and American slavery, from the point of an African.
Catherine Ancholou

A: Well, you see, Equiano's family must have had their own slaves, because every family of rich men had slaves. From research on the way slaves were treated in Africa, I know that slaves were treated almost like everybody else. There are certain things that the slaves are not allowed to do. But they live in the compound, eat the same food. Their children go to the stream and fetch water, all together. They go to the forest and cut firewood. Everybody does what everybody else does.

But the thing is the...lack of freedom is there. And the slave was not free to leave the compound or homestead of his owner and go to another homestead, or go home to his parents. And if he attempted to escape, he would be perhaps sold or killed or whatever. So, it was difficult for slaves to escape.

But then, by comparison to what happened to people who were considered slaves in Europe and America, the people who were being handled as slaves in Africa were in heaven. So I am saying that, Equiano himself must have been living with slaves, playing with the children of slaves in his father's compound, in his village, going to the stream, fetching water with them, making friends with them, eating with them. So, this of course would not have disposed him to begin to imagine the kind of thing that would happen to him outside Africa. So he would never have imagined the kind of thing that happened to him. After he was removed, after he was captured, the worst he was expecting was death. But what his what he got eventually was worse than death.
Catherine Ancholou
Associate Professor of English Literature
Awuku College of Education

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