Google Doodle Celebrates Christian Abolitionist Olaudah Equiano’s Birthday

On Monday, Google commemorated what would have been Olaudah Equiano’s 272nd birthday through a Google Doodle. Equiano, a Christian who was formerly enslaved, was influential in the British abolitionist movement.

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On Monday, Google commemorated what would have been Olaudah Equiano’s 272nd birthday through a Google Doodle. Begun in 1998, Google Doodles are alterations of the well-known search engine’s homepage that commemorates notable events and people.

For those who may be unfamiliar with his name, Olaudah Equiano (also known as Gustavus Vassa) was a former slave who became an influential voice in the British abolitionist movement in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Born on October 16, 1745, Equiano is most famous for his 1789 autobiographical work, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African. His memoir became a bestseller by 1792 and laid the foundation for an entire genre later known as the “slave narrative” that was influential during the 19th century abolitionist movements.

Through his autobiography, Equiano recounts being captured and enslaved as a boy from his hometown of Essaka in modern Nigeria and witnessing the brutality of slavery in the British colonies. Greatly influenced by Calvinist Methodist preacher George Whitefield, Equiano became a convert to Christianity and devoted his life to the words of Micah 6:8: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

His Christian convictions compelled Equiano to join the Sons of Africa, a group of leading members of London’s Black community that pushed for the abolition of slavery. His autobiography was influential in the passing of the Slave Trade Act of 1807, which ended the slave trade throughout the British Empire.

Equiano married Susannah Cullen in 1792 and the couple lived in Cambridgeshire with their two daughters. He died on March 31, 1797.

equiano photo
Photo by zimpenfish

Equiano’s engagement and passionate pursuit of justice during the time of the slave trade in the British Empire reminds us that his Christian convictions never stayed locked up within, but poured over into his writing and work in the public sphere. His lifelong endeavor for the freedom of those wrongfully enslaved burst forth from a heart captivated by how his own spiritual bondage had been broken by his Savior:

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Like some poor pris’ner at the bar,
Conscious of guilt, of sin and fear,
Arraign’d, and self-condemned, I stood—
‘Lost in the world, and in my blood!’
Yet here, ‘midst blackest clouds confin’d,
A beam from Christ, the day-star, shin’d;
Surely, thought I, if Jesus please,
He can at once sign my release.

O, happy hour, in which I ceas’d
To mourn, for then I found a rest!
My soul and Christ were now as one—
Thy light, O Jesus, in me shone!

Photo by Library Company of Philadelphia

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