Should Soham erect a statue in honour of anti-slavery campaigner?

Olaudah Equiano, who campaigned against slavery in the 16th Century

Soham Town Council has asked residents on whether they would like to see a statue erected to remember former slave and anti-slavery campaigner Olaudah Equiano. - Credit: Remembering Equiano

A town council has questioned residents on whether they would like to see a statue erected to remember a former slave and anti-slavery campaigner. 

Olaudah Equiano was captured by local slave traders in the 16th Century, before marrying and living in Soham after he bought his own freedom. 

Soham Town Council has asked residents if they would like to see a statue erected in honour of the African writer due to his link with the town. 

In a Facebook post, the council said they want ‘yes’ or ‘no’ responses “so we can gather our residents’ opinions before and if anything is potentially progressed further on this matter.” 

In our interactive poll, we want to know if you would like to see a statue of Olaudah Equiano erected in Soham.

  

Equiano was born in 1745 In the Eboe province, now southern Nigeria, before he was captured and sold by local slave traders and shipped across the Atlantic Ocean. 

It is unclear if details of Equiano’s early life are accurate due to a lack of written records.

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But after being sold to Lieutenant Michael Pascal, a Royal Navy officer while in Virginia, Equiano was renamed Gustavus Vassa. 

He learned how to read and write during an eight-year period with Pascal, and after being sold to a prominent merchant, worked as a valet, barber and deckhand. 

By working, Equiano earned enough money to buy his own freedom. 

And in London in 1786, he became a member of the ‘Sons of Africa’ group who campaigned to abolish slavery after hearing about the Zong Massacre, which is thought to have killed 142 enslaved Africans. 

Equiano also published his autobiography, 'The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African', which grew in popularity. 

Olaudah Equiano's will held in Cambridgeshire

A copy of former slave Olaudah Equiano's will, held by Cambridgeshire Archives. - Credit: Archant

Soham Town Council said: “In 1792, Equiano married Susanna Cullen from Soham in St Andrew’s Church, and they had two daughters.  

“Equiano died on March 31, 1797 at his home in London.” 

A petition submitted in 2020 to erect a statue in London in honour of Equiano’s work against slavery was rejected. 

Six years ago, Cambridgeshire Archives shared records of Equiano’s life as part of Black History Month. 

A copy of Equiano’s will was also uncovered, in which he says of his property: “I have dearly earned by the sweat of my brow in some of the most remote and adverse corners of the whole world”.