London church honours Ghanaian-born freed slave and abolitionist
Although Quobna Ottobah Cugoano played an important role in the abolition of slavery and the slave trade in 18th Century Britain, his story is relatively unknown.
Cugoano was born on the Gold Coast, which is now Ghana. While playing in a field with about 20 others, he was captured and enslaved at the age of 13.
He was headed to Grenada’s sugar plantations. There was, as Cugoano writes, “nothing to be heard but the rattling of chains, the smacking of whips, and the groans and cries of our fellow-men” aboard ship crossing the Atlantic.
After two years of “dreadful captivity … without any hope of deliverance, beholding the most dreadful scenes of misery and cruelty”, he managed to gain his freedom in 1772 by working on a sugar plantation. Using his Christian faith and his own experiences, Cugoano argues against slavery in his own published book.
Among the Sons of Africa, he wrote letters to British newspaper editors and members of Parliament opposing slavery and the slave trade.
Cugoano’s freedom is unknown, but it may be significant that the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Mansfield, ruled in the same year he came to England that reintroducing an formerly enslaved person into slavery was illegal.