The initial release of Black Authors, 1556-1922: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes the first widely-read slave narrative, an early history of African-American patriotism, and Frederick Douglass’s autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom.
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano; or Gustavus Vassa, the African (1816)
By Olaudah Equiano
Olaudah Equiano’s story, one of the first widely-read slave narratives, includes his kidnapping in Africa, the horrors of a slave ship, and his wonderment at snow upon his arrival in England. He describes how he survived a naval battle, a shipwreck in the West Indies, and two earthquakes.
Aboard the slave ship, Equiano lived under wretched conditions, often witnessed violence, and became familiar with death. For some captives, death was preferable to enslavement: