The Interesting Narrative, published in 1789 to considerable acclaim, has been compared to Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and reviewed by Mary Wollstonecraft. Equiano's life and work took shape in an era of revolutionagainst slavery, against injustice, against tyranny. Moreover, Equiano's Narrative was deeply informed by the forces that have given the modern nation-state its present recognizable characteristics. Equiano effectively challenges concepts of Englishness as an absolute ethnic category. His narrative stands as one of the earliest written works of literature by an African of the diaspora, and is certainly one of the earliest works in Western history to combine the genres of spiritual autobiography, social protest, abolitionist tract, and travelogue in such a way as to mark him a significant commentator upon and a vocal critic of the ideals of the Enlightenment.
Olaudah Equiano (1745-1797) was born in what is today known as Essaka, Nigeria, to a well-respected Igbo family. Much of our knowledge of him emerges from his own pen. He tells of being captured from his home at about age ten. He was sold numerous times before an English naval officer serving as captain of a West Indian merchant vessel purchased him.Captain Michael Pascal renamed him Gustavus Vassa, after a sixteenth-century Swedish monarch. With Pascal, Equiano served as gunmate and powder boy in the Royal Navy, fighting in several key battles during the Seven Years War. His free time was spent immersed in books, most often the Bible.