The Equiano Project

In December 2006, Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery (BM&AG) and The Equiano Society received a significant grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. With support from Birmingham City Council and Renaissance in the Regions (Museums, Libraries and Archives Council), the partnership delivered a major project that celebrated the life of Olaudah Equiano.

Equiano published his autobiography, ‘The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African’ in 1789, at a time when he was a principal opponent of the slave trade.

The British Transatlantic Slave Trade was officially abolished by an Act of Parliament in 1807. Throughout 2007 there was a national programme of events to mark the 200th anniversary of the Abolition.

Using Olaudah Equiano’s contemporary, extraordinary, autobiographical account The Equiano Project drew together all the major themes connected to political and social history, exploration, literature, the history of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and its Abolition.


The project was multimedia and multidisciplinary and consisted of:

The Equiano Exhibition (from 29th September 2007 to January 2008)  The exhibition was a flagship national event for the Equiano Project, hosted in Birmingham, United Kingdom.

It included:
• Object loans from national institutions
• Exhibition Catalogue
• Workshops with community and school groups taking place during the development of the exhibition.
• Events, seminars, family workshops and conferences.


The Touring Exhibitions

These were two identical small ‘flat pack’ exhibitions that will tour regionally and nationally to museums, libraries and community centres.


An Education Pack

A schools based resource based on the National Curriculum distributed regionally and nationally.


A Project Website

The website incorporates elements of the exhibition and educational materials, with the life and times of Olaudah Equiano as the central theme.

Timeline of Equiano

(key dates)

Granville Sharp gets the Somerset decision, declaring that slavery cannot exist in England and slaves setting foot there are free.


Equiano tries unsuccessfully to save his friend John Annis from a vengeful former master. Annis is tortured to death in the West Indies. Equiano sails for Spain and has a vision of Christ.


Travels to the Mosquito Coast, Central America, with Dr. Irving to establish a plantation and to Christianize the Indian population.


Returns to London. American Declaration of Independence signed.


Equiano informs abolitionist Granville Sharp of Zong massacre (1781), which adds further emotional reactions to the anti-slave trade movement.


Equiano sails for New York.


Equiano in Philadelphia.


Equiano appointed commissary to Sierra Leone recolonization expedition on the Committee for Relief of Black Poor in London.


Dismissed from Sierra Leone expedition. Helps organize Sons of Africa in London. Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade formed in England.


Equiano presents anti slave trade petition to England’s Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III. Abolitionists petition British Parliament to end the slave trade.

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