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A freed slave's daring assertion of the evils of slavery Born in present-day Ghana, Quobna Ottobah Cugoano was kidnapped at the age of thirteen and sold into slavery by his fellow Africans in 1770; he worked in the brutal plantation chain gangs of the West Indies before being freed in England. His Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil of Slavery is the most direct criticism o A freed slave's daring assertion of the evils of slavery Born in present-day Ghana, Quobna Ottobah Cugoano was kidnapped at the age of thirteen and sold into slavery by his fellow Africans in 1770; he worked in the brutal plantation chain gangs of the West Indies before being freed in England. His Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil of Slavery is the most direct criticism of slavery by a writer of African descent. Cugoano refutes pro-slavery arguments of the day, including slavery's supposed divine sanction; the belief that Africans gladly sold their own families into slavery; that Africans were especially suited to its rigors; and that West Indian slaves led better lives than European serfs. Exploiting his dual identity as both an African and a British citizen, Cugoano daringly asserted that all those under slavery's yoke had a moral obligation to rebel, while at the same time he appealed to white England's better self. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.


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A freed slave's daring assertion of the evils of slavery Born in present-day Ghana, Quobna Ottobah Cugoano was kidnapped at the age of thirteen and sold into slavery by his fellow Africans in 1770; he worked in the brutal plantation chain gangs of the West Indies before being freed in England. His Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil of Slavery is the most direct criticism o A freed slave's daring assertion of the evils of slavery Born in present-day Ghana, Quobna Ottobah Cugoano was kidnapped at the age of thirteen and sold into slavery by his fellow Africans in 1770; he worked in the brutal plantation chain gangs of the West Indies before being freed in England. His Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil of Slavery is the most direct criticism of slavery by a writer of African descent. Cugoano refutes pro-slavery arguments of the day, including slavery's supposed divine sanction; the belief that Africans gladly sold their own families into slavery; that Africans were especially suited to its rigors; and that West Indian slaves led better lives than European serfs. Exploiting his dual identity as both an African and a British citizen, Cugoano daringly asserted that all those under slavery's yoke had a moral obligation to rebel, while at the same time he appealed to white England's better self. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

30 review for Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil of Slavery

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lexi

    Choosing to read this book was one of the best decisions I made. Originally I started to read it because I was writing about the Middle Passage and I knew it would offer a great. I learned so much and it was such an eye opener. Although some parts get a little repetitive, his descriptiveness of his experiences and his ability to see the sides of the situation make the book well worth reading. I would recommend this book if you want to learn more about slavery beyond just working on the plantatio Choosing to read this book was one of the best decisions I made. Originally I started to read it because I was writing about the Middle Passage and I knew it would offer a great. I learned so much and it was such an eye opener. Although some parts get a little repetitive, his descriptiveness of his experiences and his ability to see the sides of the situation make the book well worth reading. I would recommend this book if you want to learn more about slavery beyond just working on the plantations. Originally from present-day Ghana, Quobna Ottobah Cugoano tells his story of slavery. He starts off by writing about his childhood which was short lived when he was kidnapped at age thirteen along with about twenty other boys and girls. He tells about the inhumane trip across the Atlantic and the cruelties they endured. Cugoano then goes on to write about life on the sugar plantation once they arrive in Grenada, a small island just off the northern coast of South American. The whipping and lashing that occurred during the trip carried over to plantations. Luckily he was sold to a British man and was taken to England where he was eventually freed. It was here that he developed a strong desire to become educated so that he can educate others of the evil of slavery. Being an abolitionist, Cugoano wrote this book to tell of the suffering he and many others went through. He refuses to blame the whites for everything, however, since it was an African slave trader who began his whole journey of slavery. Although the whites were more cruel, Cugoano views African and white slave traders the same.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Alison

    According to historian David Olusoga, this is the earliest known African-written history of slavery in English. For this reason alone, it is extraordinary. Cugoano uses the framework of a Jeramiad to argue vociferously against slavery. Unlike most of his abolitionist contemporaries, he calls for the abolition of chattel slavery altogether, not just an end to transnational slave trade. To do this, he deconstructs the difference between biblical slavery and seventeenth century slavery, explains wh According to historian David Olusoga, this is the earliest known African-written history of slavery in English. For this reason alone, it is extraordinary. Cugoano uses the framework of a Jeramiad to argue vociferously against slavery. Unlike most of his abolitionist contemporaries, he calls for the abolition of chattel slavery altogether, not just an end to transnational slave trade. To do this, he deconstructs the difference between biblical slavery and seventeenth century slavery, explains why African slavery is not to blame for the transatlantic trade, details his own history briefly, and does a bit of revelation-inspired prophesying of the inevitable divine retribution coming. To a modern, non-Christian audience it is likely a slow read at times, but that shouldn't downplay the remarkable achievement here. At one point, he puts a very modern argument for full employment. "And were every civilized nation, where they boast of liberty, so ordered by its government, that some general and useful employment were provided for every industrious man and woman, in such a manner that none should stand still and be idle, and have to say that they could not get employment, so long as there are barren lands at home and abroad sufficient to employ thousands and millions of people more than there are. This, in a great measure, would prevent thieves and robbers, and the labour of many would soon enrich a nation. But those employed by the general community should only have their maintenance either given or estimated in money, and half the wages of others, which would make them seek out for something else whenever they could, and half a loaf would be better than no bread. The men that were employed in this manner, would form an useful militia, and the women would be kept from a state of misery and want, and from following a life of dissolute wickedness. Liberty and freedom, where people may starve for want, can do them but little good." He expresses prescient concerns about the resettlement in Sierra Leone, with more insight than the government had: "This prospect of settling a free colony to Great-Britain in a peaceable alliance with the inhabitants of Africa at Sierra Leona, has neither altogether met with the credulous approbation of the Africans here, nor yet been sought after with any prudent and right plan by the promoters of it. Had a treaty of agreement been first made with the inhabitants of Africa, and the terms and nature of such a settlement fixed upon, and its situation and boundary pointed out; then might the Africans, and others here, have embarked with a good prospect of enjoying happiness and prosperity themselves, and have gone with a hope of being able to render their services, in return, of some advantage to their friends and benefactors of Great-Britain. Much assiduity was made use of to perswade the Black People in general to embrace the opportunity of going with this company of transports; but the wiser sort declined from all thoughts of it, unless they could hear of some better plan taking place for their security and safety.174 For as it seemed prudent and obvious to many of them taking heed to that sacred enquiry, Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?175 They were afraid that their doom would be to drink of the bitter water. For can it be readily conceived that government would establish a free colony for them nearly on the spot, while it supports its forts and garrisons, to ensnare, merchandize, and to carry others into captivity and slavery. " And he gently disabuses Briton's of their notions of superiority " We want many rules of civilization in Africa; but, in many respects, we may boast of some more essential liberties than any of the civilized nations in Europe enjoy; for the poorest amongst us are never in distress for want, unless some general and universal calamity happen to us." I read this on the Kindle, and the very, very excellent notes did not link to the text, forcing me to use bookmarks to jump back and forth. This substantially disrupted the reading experience, and insults the painstaking work by Vincent Carretta here.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Steve Vetter

    Mr. Cugoano was a very good writer and an impressive intellect. I gave 3 stars out of respect for his accomplishments in both areas having been a slave. However, his devotion to the bible endless quotes and references to Christianity ruined this read for me. You might as well read the bible and save yourself the time it takes to read, Thoughts and Sentiments." He presents a very powerful argument against slavery although I (and I would hope everybody in this century) is already completely agains Mr. Cugoano was a very good writer and an impressive intellect. I gave 3 stars out of respect for his accomplishments in both areas having been a slave. However, his devotion to the bible endless quotes and references to Christianity ruined this read for me. You might as well read the bible and save yourself the time it takes to read, Thoughts and Sentiments." He presents a very powerful argument against slavery although I (and I would hope everybody in this century) is already completely against slavery anyway. I don't need a Christian treatise and that's what this book amounted to. Very powerful piece of work, but I'm already on board with his sentiments. Nothing but respect for this author, just not an interesting read for me.

  4. 5 out of 5

    bird

    This book should be required reading in every high school.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Donald Linnemeyer

    Quobna Ottobah Cugoano was a British, Christian, ex-slave in the late 1700's; this book is his contribution to the British debate over slavery. Cugoano's voice is prophetic. He doesn't necessarily have the greatest, most fluid style, and he gets repetitive. But there's an incredibly force and an obvious ethos behind his words. How a book like this didn't end the debate is beyond me. What hit me first was actually Cugoano's balance. He certainly has plenty of words against the west and their role i Quobna Ottobah Cugoano was a British, Christian, ex-slave in the late 1700's; this book is his contribution to the British debate over slavery. Cugoano's voice is prophetic. He doesn't necessarily have the greatest, most fluid style, and he gets repetitive. But there's an incredibly force and an obvious ethos behind his words. How a book like this didn't end the debate is beyond me. What hit me first was actually Cugoano's balance. He certainly has plenty of words against the west and their role in the slave trade, but he doesn't spare his own people. Of his own experience being sold into slavery, he says this: "I must own, to the shame of my own countrymen, that I was first kid-napped and betrayed by some of my own complexion, who were the first cause of my exile and slavery; but if there were no buyers there would be no sellers." In other places, he admits to other pro-slavery claims, like the more "advanced" state of European countries, and the fact that Christianity is good for the slaves. But he responds to the pro-slavery argument (that the move from Africa to European nations was better for the slaves) with simple common sense. Even if, in some cases, slaves are brought to a more advanced, more Christian nation, it is not for their benefit: "But let their ignorance in some things (in which the Europeans have greatly the advantage of them) be what it will, it is not the intention of those who bring them away to make them better by it; nor is the design of slave-holders of any other intention, but that they may serve them as a kind of engines and beasts of burden; that their own ease and profit may be advanced, by a set of poor helpless men and women, whom they despise and rank with brutes, and keep them in perpetual slavery, both themselves and children, and merciful death is the only release from their toil." And what of those who get their freedom? Well, they're not necessarily better off, being exposes to such hypocritical, cruel Christians: "But amongst those who get their liberty, like all other ignorant men, are generally more corrupt in their morals, than they possibly could have been amongst their own people in Africa; for, being mostly amongst the wicked and apostate Christians, they sooner learn their oaths and blasphemies, and their evil ways, than any thing else." Another nice twist is how he deals with the Canaanite argument (that Africans are descendants of Canaan, and so they are under a curse and deserving of slavery). He actually turns it back around on the slave owners: "Many of the Canaanites who fled away in the Time of Joshua, became mingled with the different nations, and some historians, think that some of them came to England, and settled about Cornwall, as far back as that time; so that, for any thing that can be known to the country, there may be some of the descendants of that wicked generation still subsisting among the slave-holders in the West-Indies. For if the curse of God ever rested upon them, or upon any other men, the only visible mark thereof was always upon those who committed the most outrageous acts of violence and oppression." And a nice, anti-British empire comment. He response to the argument that Britain has become great through slavery in this way: "It may be answered according to the old proverb, It seldom is the grand-child's lot, To share of wealth unjustly got. This seems to be verified too much in their present situation: for however wide they have extended their territories abroad, they have sunk into a world of debt at home, which must ever remain an impending burden upon the inhabitants." Anyway, that's enough for a goodreads review. Read this book. It's full of interesting insight into empire, slavery, oppression, and plenty of details about the British slavery debate, as well as what slavery actually was like, at least for Cugoano.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tucker

    Cugoano was kidnapped as a boy in 1770 from present-day Ghana, taken to hard labor in the Caribbean, then brought to England during the same year that Lord Mansfield issued the ruling that de facto abolished slavery in England. Cugoano continued to work as a domestic servant, was educated by his employers, embraced Christianity, and around age 30 published this abolitionist manifesto. He distinguishes the sort of "free, voluntary, and sociable servitude" he believes was practiced in Biblical tim Cugoano was kidnapped as a boy in 1770 from present-day Ghana, taken to hard labor in the Caribbean, then brought to England during the same year that Lord Mansfield issued the ruling that de facto abolished slavery in England. Cugoano continued to work as a domestic servant, was educated by his employers, embraced Christianity, and around age 30 published this abolitionist manifesto. He distinguishes the sort of "free, voluntary, and sociable servitude" he believes was practiced in Biblical times from the brutal oppression, neglect and murder to which modern Africans were subjected. Perhaps because the incremental approach worked out all right for him, he recommended a transitional period where existing Afro-Briton slaves would be allowed to continue working for their employers in exchange for an education, after which they should be released only if they demonstrated good character and professed Christianity, including a willingness either to remain with their employers for pay or to return to Africa to do missionary work. A more extended commentary on this book was posted to Dead Men Blogging.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Geoff Sebesta

    As pleas against slavery go, this is sort of an interesting one. It's very early -- it was written in the 1780s, trying to convince Britan to adopt a policy of abolitionism. He answers a lot of specific questions that aren't really asked any more. He refutes pretty clearly the idea that slavery was in any way beneficial or that Africa benefited from the slave trade. The story of how the author was kidnapped and sold into slavery was extremely revealing. He also uses a lot of Biblical reasoning to As pleas against slavery go, this is sort of an interesting one. It's very early -- it was written in the 1780s, trying to convince Britan to adopt a policy of abolitionism. He answers a lot of specific questions that aren't really asked any more. He refutes pretty clearly the idea that slavery was in any way beneficial or that Africa benefited from the slave trade. The story of how the author was kidnapped and sold into slavery was extremely revealing. He also uses a lot of Biblical reasoning to explain why he should be free, which was just sad. Looking back on the history of abolitionism as a thing that has been accomplished, it wasn't really biblical scholarship that did it. That section was sort of a waste of his time.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey Z

    Cugoano succeeds at doing what his contemporary Equiano fails to do (for the most part), making his anti-slavery text more compelling. Cugoano uses the jeremiad as his vehicle through which he delivers his message of abolition. His allusions to biblical stories bolster his argument along with his direct discourse with Great Britain and her role in the slave trade. The only complaint I have about Cugoano's lengthy essay is that he is quite repetetive and redundant. I feel that some editing could Cugoano succeeds at doing what his contemporary Equiano fails to do (for the most part), making his anti-slavery text more compelling. Cugoano uses the jeremiad as his vehicle through which he delivers his message of abolition. His allusions to biblical stories bolster his argument along with his direct discourse with Great Britain and her role in the slave trade. The only complaint I have about Cugoano's lengthy essay is that he is quite repetetive and redundant. I feel that some editing could have made his arguments more concise. He may have done just this in the abridged version, but I didn't read it because I read the full length text.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tonia

    While I appreciate this text and it's importance, it's not as moving emotionally or rhetorically speaking as I thought it would be. Although, perhaps because I cannot get into the minds of those in this era, religiously speaking. There are some amazing passage in here.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jackson Cyril

    Cugoano, an ex-slave, writes this pamphlet to attack the institution. He uses scripture and logical analysis to arrive at the conclusion that slavery is wrong (although he does justify it in some instances).

  11. 4 out of 5

    Keaton

    Read: Excerpts from "Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil of Slavery"

  12. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Great message, bad style

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ian Houston

  14. 5 out of 5

    Yinzadi

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sebastian

  16. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Metzdorf

  17. 5 out of 5

    Iggyp

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sheikh Tajamul

  19. 5 out of 5

    Angelyn

  20. 5 out of 5

    Grace Mc

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  22. 4 out of 5

    Denys

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  24. 5 out of 5

    David Ober

  25. 4 out of 5

    Annie (Under the Covers Book Blog)

  26. 4 out of 5

    Robert Muir

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Hopkins

  29. 4 out of 5

    heck

  30. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

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