Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil of Slavery, by Quobna Ottobah Cugoano

Penguin, 1999

Born in present-day Ghana, Quobna Ottobah Cugoano was kidnapped at the age of thirteen and sold into slavery by his fellow Africans in 1770; he worked in the brutal plantation chain gangs of the West Indies before being freed in England. His Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil of Slavery is the most direct criticism of slavery by a writer of African descent. Cugoano refutes pro-slavery arguments of the day, including slavery's supposed divine sanction; the belief that Africans gladly sold their own families into slavery; that Africans were especially suited to its rigors; and that West Indian slaves led better lives than European serfs. Exploiting his dual identity as both an African and a British citizen, Cugoano daringly asserted that all those under slavery's yoke had a moral obligation to rebel, while at the same time he appealed to white England's better self.