Upon my completion of reading The Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, The African many questions swam through my mind about the institution of slavery, Christianity as well as our current human condition. Many of those questions being relevant today in the wake of our current social crisis with race, class, and religious intolerance. How was it possible for an entire race of people to be submissive to cruel and inhumane treatment for four hundred years? How were people claiming to be Christian able to act in this manner towards any other human, Christian or otherwise? How has this affected the African society as a whole? And what can we, as in all of humanity, learn from the sale of humans as chattel?.
One thing cannot be forgotten in this analysis; slavery was the trade in human life in which the "goods" were essentially stolen. This means that children were kidnapped for their parents, adults from their homes, souls from their bodies. The enslavement of people effectively dehumanized both the slave and the owner. By bringing the slave owner down to the level of "savage" in which the owner showed a total disregard for the physical and emotional welfare of the person whom they stripped of their freedom. And by making the slave an unfortunate victim of a cruel oppressor that has stripped them of their dignity. While the slave is clearly being victimized the slave owner is also a victim of his or her own hate, ignorance and stupidity.
How were slaveholders able to so effectively socially suppress such a large number of people, sometimes estimated as a total of fourteen million in the course of four hundred years? Slaves were the recipients of inhumane treatment designed expressly to perpetuate the institution of slavery by forcing the slave to accept a low level of life and self-worth based on their race. At one point in his narrative Olaudah Equiano speaks of the time when he realizes the fact that his complexion was unchanging while becoming the playmate of his master's friend and his reaction " I then began to be mortified at the difference in our complexions.