I wrote this essay for my Themes in American Culture class. Olaudah Equiano was sold into slavery at a young age and worked hard to buy his freedom through usefulness to his masters. He became a seasoned and influential man, becoming important where he lived in the Caribbean, United States, Great Britain, and Turkey.
Alike After Three Thousand Years:
A View on Similarities between Olaudah Equiano and Biblical Joseph
There existed many striking similarities between the lives of Olaudah Equiano and Joseph, the son of Jacob. They were very alike in their experience, attitude, and faith.
Joseph's story started out when his jealous brothers sold him into slavery to the Egyptians far away from his home (Gen. 37.28 King James Version). He quickly rose in power to as high as a slave can get as the head of a well-off Egyptian's house. However, because he was a slave he was unable to defend himself when someone made an accusation against him so he was thrown into jail. He was freed when God gave him the power to interpret Pharaoh's dream. Pharaoh was so impressed by Joseph that he made him one of the most powerful people in Egypt (Gen. 39-41).
Olaudah was sold into slavery by his close neighbors (Equiano 38). He soon became vital to the business operations of several masters due to his wisdom and common sense. However, he was frequently knocked down in position by others because he is a slave. He continued to use his wisdom to rise in independence and buy his freedom, eventually becoming quite well-off.
The similarities here are striking. Both were sold into slavery by kin, both used their wisdom to increase their standing but were hindered by being slaves, and both ended up in prosperous positions.
Olaudah stayed hopeful throughout his entire ordeal. Despite the fact that he had been beaten, stolen from, and sold into slavery numerous times, he did not give up. On the contrary, his trials seemed to make him more resolute about getting what he wanted. This positive attitude and willingness to learn made Olaudah noticed by his masters.
Joseph also kept a positive attitude. He befriended the jail-keeper and patiently waited for the king's cup bearer to remember him and bring him out of jail (Gen. 40). Although he was in prison for years, he never gave up his hope (Gen. 41.1).
Both Equiano and Joseph managed to keep very positive attitudes. These attitudes were strong enough to be noticed by their masters. They both were promoted based on their attitude.
Joseph’s faith was very strong. He continued to believe in God even when his own brothers sold him into slavery. He kept believing during years in prison. Joseph’s faith in God enabled him to survive and escape from jail.
Religion is also the most important thing in Equiano’s life. His goal of becoming literate was based on his desire to read the Bible for himself (Equiano 83). Olaudah struggled when he realized that most of those around him were sinful, but his faith stayed strong. He considered killing himself but decides not to because of his religious beliefs.
It leads to interesting conclusions if you look at what was similar about Joseph and Olaudah. They had many similar qualities; these qualities were mostly related to their faith. Their faith led to how they viewed life and hardships, so perhaps because of their faith they succeeded where others did not. Joseph and Olaudah had the same experiences, and prospered through them because of their attitude and faith.
Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 1995.
King James Version. Gen. 37-41. Gainesville: Bridge-Logos, 2003.
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