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George Boulukos

slave, sailor, writer, and activist (widely known in his time as Gustavus Vassa), became the most famous African in eighteenth-century Britain as the author of his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African (1789 While the scholar Vincent Carretta has found some evidence placing his birth in South Carolina Equiano identifies his birthplace as Essaka a small ethnically Igbo town in present day Nigeria His parents remain unknown but Equiano s family was prominent he expected to undergo a scarification ritual but was kidnapped by slavers as a young boy He experienced slavery in a variety of West African communities until he was brought to a seaport and sold to European slavers Neither Essaka nor the name Equiano has been definitively identified although both have plausible Igbo analogs such as Isseke and Ekwuano Both his African origin and his exact ...


John Saillant

Olaudah Equiano identified himself by this name only once in his life—on the title page of The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African (1789). In the Narrative itself Equiano wrote of his forename that it was an Ibo word meaning “change,” “fortunate,” or “loudly or well spoken,” but this derivation has not been corroborated. Words similar to his surname have been identified in languages spoken both east and west of the Niger River, which flows south through Iboland, the southeastern region of present-day Nigeria, where Equiano claimed to have been born. He was accused almost immediately of fabrication, however, and he may have been born in North America. All other documentation of his life, including vital records and his own signatures, used the name Gustavus Vassa (sometimes Vasa, Vassan, and other variations). Both the Narrative and commercial and public ...


Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War sailor and Medal of Honor recipient, was born John Henry Lawson in Pennsylvania to parents from Delaware. Nothing is known about his early life, and even his date of birth is uncertain. Military records indicate that he was born in 1837, while census records state that he was born five years earlier. Census records also reveal that Lawson likely married his wife, Mary (also called Mary Ann), by 1857, the year in which his eldest child, Joseph, was born. John and Mary subsequently had seven other children: Susan, George, Raymond, Mary, Mariah, Gertrude, and Marien.

Like thousands of other black men, both freeborn and freed, Lawson enlisted for Civil War service in the U.S. Navy on 3 December 1863 in New York Naval records indicate that Lawson was twenty six years old at the time a ...