Teaching American History
This presentation invites low English Proficiency (LEP) adolescent newcomers (newly arrived
immigrants) to consider what the qualities of a leader are through reading excerpts about and by
Olaudah Equiano and answering questions about the dilemmas and opportunities he encountered
Students are enrolled in “sheltered” U.S. History I classes which deliver foundation content
following the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks while developing English language skills in
order to eventually enroll in mainstream history content classes with some basic knowledge of
Students have a 0-2 level of English; thus, they have a limited vocabulary and limited reading
comprehension in English and all Tier 2 – 3 vocabulary must be explicitly taught
In addition to limited English skills, students generally have minimal knowledge of U.S. History and
limited awareness (if any) of a U.S. historical perspective on world events and history; therefore,
students will need prior instruction to build background knowledge on the Slave Trade and the
Abolitionist movements in the United States and in Great Britain
All quotes should be reduced to plain English as full class activities
The presentation is interactive in that students take notes and respond to questions in a notebook
which will be collected as part of their assessment; developing note-taking skills is an integral
component to their sheltered history class
The presentation can be used full class or students may work through it individually or
combinations of both
What are the qualities of a leader?
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more,
do more and become more, you are a leader.” These are three famous leaders in U.S.
-John Quincy Adams history that you probably know:
“True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers,
not the enrichment of the leaders.”
-Robert Townsend George Washington
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a Abraham Lincoln
man's character, give him power.”
- Abraham Lincoln Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in
other men the conviction and will to carry on.”
-Walter J. Lippmann
“In matters of style, swim with the current; In matters of
principle, stand like a rock.”
“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing
can be changed until it is faced.”
- James Baldwin
Why were they “leaders”?
What do these quotations tell What do you know about
us about leaders? them?
A young child in Africa…
Olaudah Equiano was born in West Africa in 1745.
He was kidnapped by another tribe in 1755. He was
11 years old.
Olaudah was next sold to white slave traders who
put him on a ship for the Americas. This was the
first time he saw the ocean.
The slave ship crossed the Atlantic Ocean and
arrived in Barbados in the West Indies in 1756.
Equiano did not speak English. He did not know
how to read or write.
He did not know where he was going or what was
happening to him.
Imagine you are Olaudah.
Write down what you see
and talk about your fears…
The Middle Passage
“The first object [I saw] when I arrived on the coast [ofWest Africa], was the
sea, and a slave ship…waiting for its cargo.These filled me with
astonishment, … soon… terror… I wished for the last friend, death, to
relieve me…I would have jumped over the side, but I could not…the
shrieks of the women, and the groans of the dying, [made] the whole a
scene of horror almost inconceivable.” (chapter 2)
Dilemma: Olaudah saw other slaves throw themselves overboard to escape
the horrors aboard the slave ship. The Middle Passage was so horrible,
Olaudah wanted to kill himself sometimes. Olaudah decided not to try
to throw himself overboard.
Why do you think he made the choice to survive slavery at this point? What
were his options?
Travels as a slave
The slave ship arrived in Barbados. Olaudah
had survived the Middle Passage.
No one bought Olaudah in Barbados. He
went on another ship to an English Colony in
A British Navy officer, Michael Henry Pascal,
bought Olaudah and was his master for 7
years. He brought him to England.
When in England, Olaudah learned to read
and write. Olaudah also learned to speak
Later, Olaudah traveled all around the world
with Lt. Pascal.
Lt. Pascal promised to give Olaudah his
freedom, but he never did. In 1763, Lt. Pascal
sold Olaudah to a new master, Mr. King.
Olaudah made himself very useful to Mr.
King and learned more about commerce and
Dilemmas and opportunities…
By chance, Olaudah was bought by a man who allowed him to
learn to read and write. What kind of opportunity was this for
Olaudah? If he could learn to read and write in English, what
other opportunities might he find?
By chance, Olaudah’s owner traveled the world. This was an
opportunity for Olaudah to learn about what?
Lt. Pascal had promised to give Olaudah his freedom but didn’t.
Olaudah wanted to be free. What are some possible things he
could do in this dilemma?
Mr. King was a businessman. This was an opportunity for
Olaudah to do what?
Olaudah had many opportunities to try to escape. One of his
dilemmas was to escape or not. Why do you think he chose not
to escape from either Lt. Pascal or Mr. King?
How did events from 1756-1763 influence Olaudah? Did
these events help to form him as a leader? Explain your
He learned to read and write and speak in English
He traveled the world and saw many different people and places
He was promised freedom, but was not given it
He learned about trade and commerce
What did Olaudah gain from his situation as a slave with Lt. Pascal?
How might this have helped him eventually to become an abolitionist leader?
What did he gain from his situation as a slave with Mr. King?
How might this have helped him eventually to become an abolitionist leader?
How do you think the unfulfilled promise of freedom motivated Olaudah?
In 1766, Olaudah bought his freedom and worked in the trade
He lived in England and became an abolitionist
He lectured against the cruelty of British slave owners
He spoke out against the English slave trade
He worked to resettle freed slaves in Sierre Leone
Olaudah published a narrative about his life in 1789
His narrative was a great influence on the abolition of slavery in
England and in the United States
Olaudah Equiano died in 1797
In 1807, Great Britain abolished slavery
Dilemmas and opportunities…
When Olaudah bought his freedom from Mr. King, he faced
the dilemma of where to go so that he could live his life as a
freed man. Why do you think he went to England instead of
staying in the West Indies or the United States?
Olaudah had many abolitionist friends who supported his
abolitionist work in England. Why do you think he took the
opportunity to write a narrative about his life?
Olaudah worked to help freed slaves move back to Sierra
Leone in Africa. He faced the dilemma of not moving back
himself. Why do you think he chose not to return to Africa?
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or
Gustavus Vassa, The African (1789) by Olaudah Equiano
Olaudah’s principal reason for writing
his narrative was to evoke compassion
for the miseries suffered by Africans in
the slave trade
An English abolitionist said that
Olaudah’s book was “more use to the
Cause [Abolition] than half the people
of the country”.
Olaudah said he hoped his book would
“promote the interests of humanity”
Olaudah tried to convince others that the slave trade was wrong.
Do his words persuade you? How?
“[It] violates that first natural right of mankind, equality and freedom, and gives
one man a dominion over his fellows which God could never intend! For it
raises the owner to a state as far above man as it depresses the slave below it;
and, with all the presumption of human pride, sets a distinction between them,
immeasurable in extend, and endless in duration!”
“When you make men slaves, you deprive them of half their virtue, you set
them, in your own conduct, an example of fraud, rapine, and cruelty, and
compel them to live with you in a state of war, and yet you complain that they
are not honest or faithful!”
“As the inhuman traffic of slavery is to be taken into the consideration of the
British legislature, I doubt not, if a system of commerce was established in
Africa, the demand for manufactures would most rapidly augment…a
commercial intercourse with Africa opens an inexhaustible source of wealth to
the manufacturing interests of Great Britain, and to all which the slave trade is
an objection…The abolition of slavery would be in reality a universal good.”
Olaudah was intelligent, quickly learned
English, studied to read and write and learn
about the laws and business of his enslavers
Olaudah converted to Christianity which may
have influenced how he told his story and who
became his friends and supporters
Olaudah’s autobiography was the first slave
narrative and the first book published in English
by an African
His narrative was very effective in behalf of
Olaudah knew how to convince his readers that
slavery was inhuman
Olaudah survived horrible situations and
Olaudah was willing to work hard for what he
Dilemmas, Luck, or Opportunities? Use your notes and online
resources to answer these questions. When you look for the answers,
can you find more dilemmas and opportunities that Olaudah faced?
1. Who was Olaudah Equiano?
2. When did he live?
3. Where was he born and where did he die?
4. What were some things happening during this time in the United States?
5. What were some things happening in Great Britain at this time?
6. Why didn’t Olaudah try to escape from his African kidnappers or the whites who
7. If Olaudah Equiano did not become the slave to Lt. Pascal, would he have become an
8. When Mr. King bought Olaudah, in what ways might Olaudah’s life have been
different from his life with Lt. Pascal?
9. When Olaudah bought his freedom and moved to England, he converted to
Christianity. How might this have influenced his perspective?
10. Olaudah had several opportunities of good luck. What were they? How did he use
them to his advantage?
11. In your opinion, which event or period of time most influenced Olaudah to become a
Cause and Effect Organizer
Copy in your notebook and write 10 causes and 10 matching effects
Important event or experience How the event or experience
in Olaudah’s life… formed his leadership qualities…
1. he was kidnapped when 1. he was too young
he was 11 to figure out how to
escape and go back to
Africa so he had to
learn how to make the
best of his situation
Olaudah Equiano –
Does he qualify as a leader?
Now that you have learned a little about Equiano, do you think
he had leadership qualities?
In your notebook, EXPLAIN your opinion and answer in
Use evidence from the presentation, your notes, and any
information from other sources in your answer.
Olaudah Equiano had no choice in his life as a slave. However, he took
advantage of every opportunity to enhance his life and make himself
useful. In fact, he learned a new language, reading and writing, English
law, and trade and commerce. He became a self-educated man. With his
education and his desire for freedom, Olaudah overcame his
enslavement by buying his freedom. He gained power over his own life
and destiny. Now he was able to live the life he chose. His choice was to
work hard to abolish the practiced that allowed for humans to enslave
each other. In doing so, he wrote his narrative and convinced many that
slavery was inhuman. His abolition work influenced not just Great
Britain which abolished slavery in 1807, but also influenced the growing
abolitionist movement in the United States. Because Olaudah was
intelligent, educated, hardworking and diligent, he was well-respected
and people listened to him. If you return to Slide 3 and the 6 quotes
about leaders, can you agree that Olaudah Equiano certainly meets the
criteria to be a leader?
Sources and further reading
During your free lab time, search for more facts and information on Olaudah Equiano,
The Slave Trade, The Middle Passage, and The Abolitionist Movements
PBS resource guide, Africans in America http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part1/1p276.html
University of Michigan http://wmich.edu/dialogues/texts/lifeofolaudahequiano.htm
Brycchan Carey’s website for Olaudah Equiano http://www.brycchancarey.com/equiano/index.htm
Equiano Foundation Online http://www.atomicage.com/equiano/index.html
University of North Carolina “Documenting the American South” http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/neh.html
Library of Congress “The African American Odyssey, Slaves and the Courts”
Selections of Olaudah Equiano’s narrative: http://wsu.edu/~dee/Equiano.html
The Mariner’s Museum, Captive Passage http://wsu.edu/~dee/Equiano.html
Understanding Slavery http://www.understandingslavery.com/citizen/explore/activism/gallery/?id=1376
African American Odyssey, Anti-Slavery Movements and the Rise of the Sectional Controversy
The African American Mosaic http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african/afam007.html
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American Slavery
History Matters http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6372/