Live Discussion on Historical Controversy at The Chronicle of Higher Education
On Thursday, September 8, at 1p.m. U.S. Eastern Time there will be a live discussion on-line at The Chronicle of Higher Education Web site with Vincent Carretta.
Olaudah Equiano's famous first-person account of the Middle Passage in his 1789 autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself, has become the definitive version of the harrowing journey endured by slaves transported across the ocean. But what if Equiano did not make the journey?
Vincent Carretta did not set out to question Equiano's tale, but in the process of his research, he uncovered evidence in public records that Equiano actually was born in South Carolina.
What effects will Mr. Carretta's finding have on scholarship on slave narratives and the African diaspora? If Mr. Carretta is right, why would Equiano have felt the need to fabricate a key portion of his experience? Where could he have found details of African life and the deadly Middle Passage from which to borrow?
Vincent Carretta is a professor of English at the University of Maryland at College Park and author of the forthcoming book, Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man (University of Georgia Press, October). His other books include scholarly editions of Equiano and of Equiano's contemporaries Ignatius Sancho, Ottobah Cugoano, and Phillis Wheatley. Last year he was a senior fellow at Harvard University's W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research. He will respond to questions and comments about these issues on Thursday, September 8, at 1 p.m., U.S. Eastern time. Readers are welcome to post questions and comments now.
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