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Olaudah Equiano, Black Abolitionist

Monday, 9th February 2009

Olaudah Equiano, Black Abolitionist

A memorial to Olaudah Equiano, the black campaigner prominent in the 18th century abolitionist movement which brought slavery to an end, was dedicated in St Margaret’s Church at Westminster Abbey on Monday 9th February.

The dedication service marked the 250th anniversary of Equiano’s baptism in St Margaret’s.

Equiano (1745 – 1797), also known by his slave name of Gustavus Vassa, was baptised at St Margaret’s on 9th February 1759. His autobiography The Interesting Narrative Of The Life Of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, The Africandepicted the horrors of slavery and helped influence British lawmakers to abolish the slave trade through the Slave Trade Act of 1807.

Despite his enslavement as a young man, Equiano purchased his freedom and worked as a seaman, merchant, and explorer in South America, the Caribbean, the Arctic, the American colonies, and the United Kingdom.

The service was attended by the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd and Rt Hon Dr John Sentamu who formally presented the memorial to the Rector of St Margaret’s, Canon Robert Wright.

The Reverend Dr Joel Edwards, Commissioner at the Equality and Human Rights Commission gave the Address Equiano’s Spirituality and Asher Hoyle read The Talking Book.

Jeanette Arnold, chair of the Greater London Authority, read Ephesians 4: 25-30 and Burt Ceasar read from The Life of Olaudah Equiano, The African.

Professor Vincent Carretta of the University of Maryland delivered a Tribute. Prayers were led by the Reverend Michael Macey, Minor Canon of Westminster and the Archbishop of York.

The service was sung by Choir of St Margaret’s Church, conducted by the Director of Music Aidan Oliver; and the London Seventh-day Adventist Male Voice Choir. The organist was Richard Pearce.

The Equiano memorial in the south aisle of St Margaret’s was created by the London-based sculptor Marcia Bennett-Male who was present at the service.

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I feel very privileged to work here. I take so much pride in working for a beautiful place like the Abbey, it’s unique.

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Alex - Abbey Marshal

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