ESTABLISHING CONTEXT



Establishing context is important in understanding the significance of Equiano's World and the role that Gustavus Vassa played in the abolition movement. Vassa's autobiography does not always clearly establish context, and sometimes his own misunderstandings cloud an appreciation of his own evolution as an intellectual and political activist. Vassa's rendition of the notorious "Middle Passage" has to be understood in context, for example. Similarly, Vassa's exploration of different religions is worthy of reflection, while his role in the abolition movement has spawned an important scholarly literature. That Vassa's slavery overlapped with the Seven Years War requires an understanding of where he was and when, and the impact that his risky adventures had on him. His role in the first Sierra Leone colonization scheme and his importance in the abolition movement also require some discussion. Finally, Vassa's involvement in the radical politics of London in the early 1790s help to establish the context in which his autobiography was received.

Context

The Bight of Biafra and the Atlantic

(d. 1841)

Caption, King Bell's house, Cameroons; king sitting in front of his house being entertained by dancers. King Bell's house is very well built, with a raised story, surrounded by a verandah . . . .We . . . found [him] in front of his house, seated in a large arm-chair, with no other dress than an ample cotton cloth folded round the loins, and an English black beaver hat on. He was surrounded by a number of his people, who had devoted this cooler portion of the day to recreation. The principal performers were the Egbo men . . . (Allen, pp. 240-41).

The

William Allen, A Narrative of the Expedition sent by Her Majesty's Government to the River Niger, in 1841 (London, 1848), vol. 2, p. 240.

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