Olaudah Equiano

Daniel Orme1789

Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

After purchasing his freedom from slavery, Olaudah Equiano became a well-known abolitionist in England. He commissioned this image for his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano . . . (1789), published to "excite . . . a sense of compassion of the miseries which the Slave-Trade has entailed." This book, together with Phillis Wheatley's Poems on Various Subjects . . . , form the genesis of the black literary tradition. Equiano stares directly at the viewer in this portrait, demanding that we consider him a social equal, a provocative notion in the eighteenth century.

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  • Title: Olaudah Equiano
  • Creator: Daniel Orme, W Denton
  • Date Created: 1789
  • Physical Dimensions: w7.9 x h10.6 cm
  • Classification: Print
  • Type: Stipple engraving
  • Rights: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution