WASHINGTON (May 20, 2014) - The Moorland-Spingarn Research Center (MSRC) and the African American Literature & Culture Society (AALCS) are pleased to host a roundtable panel and exhibit celebrating the 225th year of publication of Olaudah Equiano’s autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African, Written by Himself, on Saturday, May 24, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., in the Founders Library Browsing Room. The program is free and open to the public.
Originally published in 1789, Equiano’s narrative is an enduring tale that articulates, in stark yet very human terms, the brutality of the trans-Atlantic slave trade from the perspective of one who was enslaved and who later transcended slavery. Born in 1745 in Eboe, in what is now Nigeria, Equiano was kidnapped when he was about 11-years-old. He spent a brief period in Virginia, but during much of his time in slavery he served the captains of slave ships and British navy vessels, traveling extensively.
After purchasing his freedom in 1766, he settled in England, attended school and worked as an assistant to a scientist. He continued to travel, making voyages to Turkey, Portugal, Italy, Jamaica, Grenada, North America and even the North Pole. In 1789, he published his now-classic autobiography. After the book’s publication—it went through one American and eight British editions during his lifetime—Equiano travelled throughout Great Britain telling his story and decrying the institution of slavery. He died in London in 1797.
The May 24 roundtable will be chaired by the University of Utah’s Dr. Wilfred D. Samuels, AALCS founding president, and will feature presentations by the following scholars:
- Howard Dodson, director of the Howard University Library System and the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center
- Arthur Torrington, president of the Equiano Society of London, England
- Kari Winter, SUNY-Buffalo
- Eric D. Lamore, University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez
- Edward Leon Robinson, California State University, Dominguez Hills
Moorland-Spingarn Research Center’s curators will present an exhibit showcasing rare copies of Equiano’s Narrative, including a copy of the first American edition published in 1791, an inscribed 1794 edition and images of the author from the Center’s collection. The AALCS will present MSRC Director Dodson with its Dr. Darwin T. Turner Distinguished Scholar Award, followed by a reception.
Named for the prolific scholar of African-American history and literature, this year’s award salutes Dodson’s “unsurpassed work as chronicler, preserver, glorifier and magnifier of African-American history and culture,” according to AALCS President-Elect Shirley Moody Turner.
“We are convinced that…the transformation of the study and validation of the African American literary tradition over the past one hundred years…would have been impossible without the central role played by people like [him],” she added.
About the African American Literature & Culture Society
Founded in May 1993, the African American Literature & Culture Society initiates and encourages critical dialogue, scholarly publications, conferences, programs, and projects devoted to the study of the African American literature and culture. The Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, one of Howard University’s major research facilities, is recognized as one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive repositories for the documentation of the history and culture of people of African descent in Africa, the Americas, and other parts of the world.
About the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center
The Moorland-Spingarn Research Center is recognized as one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive repositories for the documentation of the history and culture of people of African descent in Africa, the Americas, and other parts of the world. As one of Howard University’s major research facilities, the MSRC collects, preserves, and makes available for research a wide range of resources chronicling the global Black experience. Visit http://www.howard.edu/msrc/ for more information.