“See Benezet’s Account of Africa Throughout”

Sean D. Moore

in Slavery and the Making of Early American Libraries

Published in print February 2019 | ISBN: 9780198836377
Published online April 2019 | e-ISBN: 9780191873621 | DOI:
“See Benezet’s Account of Africa Throughout”

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Olaudah Equiano is arguably the founder of the slave narrative, in his case one in which he explores his capture in Africa as a boy, his different masters, his conversion to evangelical Protestantism, his entrepreneurship, and his service in the navy—all requisites to being considered fully “British” at the time. This chapter explores his footnote in his Interesting Narrative acknowledging how Philadelphia Quaker abolitionist Anthony Benezet’s anthropology of West Africa informed his story, and how Benezet—who had never been to Africa—relied on the slavery-funded Library Company of Philadelphia, for books of travels to Africa for that anthropology. In doing so, it provides archival evidence of how Philadelphians exchanged their grain and other products for slaves and Caribbean slave plantation products. It also provides the first ever analysis of the library’s 1794–1812 circulation receipt book, showing the circulation of all the genres encapsulated in both men’s accounts.

Keywords: Olaudah Equiano; Anthony Benezet; Library Company; Philadelphia; early American; Quaker; abolitionism; Benjamin Franklin; genre; black Atlantic

Chapter.  17448 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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