Occasionally, an enslaved person became free and some became active in the British campaign against slavery.
Olaudah Equiano (c.1745 -c.1797)
Equiano was captured from his home in Nigeria at the age of 11 and sold into slavery. He was taken to Barbados in the West Indies and from there sold to a British naval officer in America, who renamed him 'Gustavus Vassa'.
Equiano's second owner, a Quaker merchant, taught him to read and write and introduced him to Christianity. He also let Equiano make his own trade deals as a 'side hustle'. In 1766 Equiano was able to make enough money from his own deals to buy his freedom. He became a sailor and travelled to London, where he joined the abolition movement.
In 1789 he published an autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African, about his life as an enslaved person. It became a bestseller and helped the abolitionist cause.
Ottobah Cugoano (c.1750-1788)
Ghanaian born Cugoano was also sold into slavery as a child, for the price of "a gun, a piece of cloth, and some lead", he wrote later.
He was forced to work on plantations in Grenada and then was brought to England, where he was granted his freedom. He became a Christian in 1773 and was baptised 'John Stuart'. Cugoano worked as a servant to an artist and published a book in 1787 about his new life, entitled Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Commerce of the Human Species. He travelled all over England promoting his book and became a friend of Olaudah Equiano.
Ignatius Sancho (1729-1780)
Mary Prince (b.1788)
She was taken from the island of Antigua to Britain in 1828 by her new enslavers who lived in London. As slavery was no longer legal in Britain, Prince was able to leave and join the Anti-Slavery Society. In 1829, Prince asked parliament to grant her freedom so that she could return to the West Indies, where at this time, slavery was still permitted.
She was asked to give an account of her life as an enslaved person for the abolitionist movement and it was published as The History of Mary Prince in 1831.
Abolitionist - someone who campaigned to end slavery
Baptised - a ceremony welcoming someone into a religion
Engraving - picture printed from an image carved into a hard surface
Plantations - large farms or estates where labourers grow crops