Many historians have described what it must have been like for kidnapped Africans to sail across the Atlantic. Olaudah Equiano tells us what it was like:
- Children were kidnapped from their homes, often when their parents were not there. A similar event happened to Olaudah and his sister. He was eleven years old.
- At some point, before he sailed, Equiano was separated from his sister. It was a frightening event for both of them.
- The first time the young lad set eyes on a slave ship, he was terrified.
- He thought he was brought on board to be eaten by the white men:
When I looked round the ship too and saw a large furnace of copper boiling, and a multitude of black people of every description chained together, every one of their countenances expressing dejection and sorrow, I no longer doubted my fate and quite overpowered with horror and anguish, I fell motionless on the deck and fainted...I asked if we were not to be eaten by those white men with horrible looks, red faces and long hair?
- Since he did not live on the African coast, and had never seen a ship, Equiano thought sailing happened by magic.
- Conditions on board ship were so bad he would have jumped overboard had he been able.
- Equiano learned he would be taken far away to work for the white men in their country.
- During the crossing, the stench below deck, nearly unbearable on the coast, became "pestilential."
- Many of the kidnapped Africans thought death was preferable to living on a slave ship.
- Some of the captives jumped into the water, committing suicide. More would have followed had the crew not stopped them.
- Equiano’s ship arrived in Barbados.
- He, and the other captured Africans, were sold as slaves on the Caribbean island.
Olaudah Equiano spent many years at sea as the slave of a naval man. Although he became a freeman in 1766, for the sum of 40 pounds sterling, he never saw his parents or sister again.