Olaudah Equiano visits Convent High School

Last Updated: Saturday, 01 August 2015 Published: Thursday, 22 January 2009 Written by Daria L. Mitchell Sorhaindo

On Wednesday 21 January, the Fifth Form Literature class of the Convent High School had the pleasure of witnessing history come alive as they encountered the historical African Olaudah Equaino (Gustavus Vassa) (c.1745 - 1797) in the personage of dramatist Joe Williams from Leeds in Yorkshire, England.

Joe Williams

Joe Williams is visiting Dominica with his close friend and associate Carol Sorhaindo (an old girl of Convent High) and is presently introducing the concept of Slavery into English schools. Hence, Equiano the Nigerian ex-slave and writer is the current role he plays to bring the concept of slavery to children. It is fortunate that Mr. Williams was able to share his knowledge with us at the Convent High School. He held the girls entranced as he narrated extracts from Equiano’s autobiography: The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African'. The girls were able to ask questions of this educated African and learn about his exploits as a slave as well as a freed man working tirelessly towards Abolition. Mr. Williams also discussed the transatlantic slave trade, the Ancient Egyptians and Jewish traders who came after and the girls imbibed their African heritage as they saw the great impact their forefathers had on civilization as we know it today. It was quite intriguing that Equiano had quite a few similarities to America’s President Barack Obama.

It was very interesting that Yorkshire, the home of the Bronte Sisters holds such a treasure in its rich history of the transatlantic slave trade. This part of history is present in their novels and it is also present in Jane Austen’s work as seen in Northanger Abbey.

In addition, Mr. Williams also treated the girls to dramatic readings of Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” and of Brutus in “Julius Caesar”.

The girls heard about Ira Aldridge (1807-67) the first black American to achieve stardom in the theatre around the world and learnt about dramatic techniques using breathing.

  This History/Literature/ Geography lesson turned out to be a fantastic treat for the girls who can now connect their encounter with the Merchants Antonio and Shylock, to other historical events happening during that time in the area of trade and commerce. Indeed Mr. Williams has opened a new vista of history and literature in his presentation of Equiano.

The Convent High School wishes both Mr. Williams and Ms. Carol Sorhaindo God’s Blessings as they continue to resuscitate through drama, our History, that of the Caribbean peoples, a people who came and survived.

 

Sites to explore:

Equiano:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/equiano_olaudah.shtml http://www.brycchancarey.com/equiano/

Ira Aldridge:

http://www.wayneturney.20m.com/aldridgeira.htm

Must Read:

The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African'.

When We Ruled- Robin Walker

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