The eighteenth-century debate on Africa provides a revealing context for interpreting Olaudah Equiano's presentation of his African identity in The Interesting Narrative (1789). The debate begins with William Snelgrave who, in New Account of Some Parts of Guinea and the Slave-Trade (1734), depicts the slave trade as rescuing Africans from their brutal Kings. These Kings, Snelgrave suggests, when not offered money by Europeans, happily kill captives as human sacrifices and even for cannibal feasts. Anthony Benezet offered the most influential rebuttal to Snelgrave in his polemical compilation of travel accounts, Some Historical Account of Guinea (1771), which portrays Africans as innocent primitives corrupted by Europeans. Equiano's definition of his national identity as British, rather than Igbo or Beninite, can be understood as responding to both extremes in this debate.


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pp. 241-255
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