Olusoga writes foreword for Hodder reissue of Equiano's classic memoir

Olusoga writes foreword for Hodder reissue of Equiano's classic memoir

David Olusoga has written a new foreword for Hodder & Stoughton reissue of Black history classic The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, more than 230 years after its original publication.

The reissued memoir of Equiano, a formerly enslaved man who in the late 18th century became a leading figure in the abolitionist movement, will feature an introduction by the author of Black and British (Pan Macmillan).  

Hodder & Stoughton publisher Rowena Webb acquired world exclusive rights in print, digital and audio from Charles Walker at United Agents. 

The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano will be published on 30th September, ahead of Black History Month in October. A new audiobook will also be released read by rapper, actor and author Ben Bailey Smith, also known as Doc Brown. Olusoga will read his own foreword. Additional material is provided by author and professor James Walvin from York University.

Equiano is believed to have been born in 1745 in the former Kingdom of Benin. Sold into slavery around the age of 10, he purchased his freedom as an adult and became a leading figure in the abolitionist movement. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, published in 1789, was a bestseller and went through nine different editions. He died in 1797.  

“Equiano’s narrative is the most significant autobiographical account of slavery to emerge from Britain's centuries as a slave-trading and slave-owning power,” Hodder & Stoughton said. “It remains as powerful today as it was when first published in 1789.

“In this new edition, leading historian David Olusoga sets The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano in its historical context, helping us to understand this complex, spiritual, politically skilful and passionate man. Although Equiano did not live to see the abolition of the slave trade or slavery itself, his voice was pivotal to the abolitionist struggle.”  

Olusoga said: “Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative was not the only autobiography written by a formerly enslaved person to be published in Britain during the 18th century, but it was and remains the most significant. Thanks to the long and detailed account of his life contained within it, and evidence from letters both published and unpublished, we know more about the life of Olaudah Equiano than we do about the lives of any of his contemporaries.

"Few black British people, if that is the appropriate way of framing Equiano, even from later epochs in the 19th and early 20th centuries, emerge from the page as fully formed or as complex as Equiano."

Webb said: “Stumbling across Equiano’s memoir for the first time only recently, I was struck by how spellbinding and powerful it is, yet relatively little known. I’m thrilled that David Olusoga is as passionate as we are to bring this important book to a far wider readership now, and that Ben Bailey Smith can bring it an amazing new life in audio."