Olaudah Equiano, also known as Gustavas Vassa, was born in Guinea, Africa in 1745. His birth-name was Essaka and he was the son of an Ibo chieftain. Equiano was the youngest son of seven kids, six boys and one girl. As a child he enjoyed spending time with his mother, whom he was very fond of. He would accompany his mother to the markets and sometimes to her mother's tomb when she made oblations (religious offerings). .
The youngest son of a village leader, Equiano was born among the Ibo people in the kingdom of Benin, along the Niger River. He was the favorite of his mother." His family expected to follow in his father's footsteps and become a chief, an elder, a judge. Slavery was an integral part of the Ibo culture, as it was with many other African peoples. His family owned slaves, but there was also a continual threat of being abducted, of becoming someone else's slave. Unfortunately this is what happened, one day, while Equiano and his sister were at home alone. Two men and a woman climbed over the walls of the house and captured the children. Several days later Equiano and his sister were separated. Equiano continued to travel farther and farther from homeexchanging masters along the way. Equiano's early experiences as a slave were not all disagreeable; some families treated Equiano almost as a part of the family. Essaka was shipped to Barbados and later Virginia, where he was bought by his first master, Mr. Campbell. In Virginia he was given the name Jacob. In Virginia he was giving the tasks were weeding grass, and gathering stones in the plantation. He also dwelled in the house of his master to fan him, soon after his master fell asleep and Jacob continued his state of fanning until his master woke. While in the house Jacob was astonished and shocked by many things he had never seen before. One thing that he saw a black woman slave who was cooking dinner who wore an iron muzzle locked on her mouth, which kept her from speaking, eating and drinking.