Archbishop to commemorate Britain's first African Caribbean political activist

By agency reporter
February 2, 2009

Anglican Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu will be among the guests at the commemorative service for a notable eighteenth century social reformer and anti-slavery activist planned for next week.

Olaudah Equiano has been described as Britain's first African Caribbean political activist. Also known as ‘Gustavas Vassa, the African', he dedicated his life to ending slavery and was a key figure in the abolitionist movement.

His work will be celebrated at a service at the Anglican church of St Margaret's, in the grounds of Westminster Abbey, at Parliament Square on 9 February 2009.

A survivor of the 'Middle Passage', which historians indicate led to the loss or displacement of over 22 million lives, Equiano was torn from his family after he was kidnapped with his sister at the age of 11. He experienced first hand the systematic violence and brutality meted out to those forced into chattel slavery.

He was transported to a plantation in Barbados, one of many dotted across the English colonies at the time.

The trade was a deadly system in which it is estimated that for every person who was taken captive from African and reached the America's or Caribbean alive, five others died during its various phases.

Records show that the harsh reality of plantation life and the routine use of torture, which was euphemistically referred to as ‘discipline', meant that the life expectancy after arrival on a plantation did not exceed more than six years.

Both the transatlantic slave trade and chattel slavery were acknowledged as a Crime against Humanity at the 2001, United Nation's World Conference, in Durban South Africa.

Further information on the Black Mental Health website:

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