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Ottobah Cugoano: The Unsung Ghanaian Slave Who Fought To End Slavery In 1787

Sketch<a href=httpshowafricacom> <a>of<a href=httpshowafricacom> <a>Ottobah Cugoano

 

Quobna Ottobah Cugoano, a Ghanaian native sold into slavery at the age of 13, is famed for preventing the shipment of Henry Demane, a stolen slave, to the West Indies in 1786.

Cugoano quickly contacted Granville Sharp, a well-known abolitionist, who arranged for Demane to be taken from the slave ship minutes before it set sail.

Cugoano was an active member of the Sons of Africa, an African abolitionist organization in England.

Cugoano was born in Ajumako, West Africa, in the central part of Ghana, around 1757. He was a member of the Fante tribe. Cugoano was captured and sold into slavery when he was 13 years old. He was later transferred to Grenada to work on a plantation.

In 1772, he was bought by an Englishman and sent to England. Cugoano’s name was changed to John Stuart at this period. Cugoano was given the chance to learn to read and write. He became a Christian and was baptized.

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Cugoano met premier British political figures and cultural figures while working for Richard Cosway and his wife Maria 1784. He also became a member of the Sons of Africa, alongside Olaudah Equiano.

Cugoano addressed the effects of slavery in his 1787 book, Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species. He distributed the book to prominent political figures in Britain, but the eradication of slavery remained a pipe dream. In the book, Cugoano stated:

Is it not strange to think, that they who ought to be considered as the most learned and civilized people in the world, that they should carry on a traffic of the most barbarous cruelty and injustice, and that many think slavery, robbery and murder no crime?

He is also said:

If any man should buy another man and compel him to his service and slavery without any agreement of that man to serve him, the enslaver is a robber. It is as much the duty of a man who is robbed in that manner to get out of the hands of his enslaver, as it is for any honest community of men to get out of the hands of rogues and villains.”

Cugoano rewrote his book in 1791, tailoring it to Sons of Africa members. This edition of the book focused on the British government’s lack of help for London’s Poor Blacks, a community of freed Africans living in the city at the time. He also mentioned how the Black Loyalists – emancipated Africans in Nova Scotia who emigrated from Sierra Leone – were not properly assisted.

Cugoano stressed the brutality of slavery and urged for slave dealers to be apprehended and imprisoned. Clearly forthright, he also labelled English MP William Wilberforce a hypocrite for not taking a firmer position against slavery.

Cugoano’s whereabouts, place of death, and date of death are unknown after 1791.

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Written by How Africa News

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