Ottobah Cugoano

Born: 1757

Died: c. 1791

Birth Place: Ghana

Known for: Book-writing and anti-slavery activism.

He became a prominent figure among Africans that were no longer enslaved.

Cugoano affected change by writing books about the enslavement of Africans.

Cugoano became one of the leaders of London’s Black community.

Any property taken away from others, whether by stealth, fraud or violence, must be wrong: but to take away men themselves, and keep them in slavery, must be worse.

Ottobah Cugoano

Life story


Activist roots


Ottobah Cugoano was an anti-slavery activist, who was captured from his home as a child and transported to Grenada, and later to England, where he was enslaved and forced to work in plantations.


He was freed some years later in England, and became deeply involved in campaigning for the freedom of enslaved people, as well as for former enslaved people’s rights and social justice. He worked with other abolitionists and leaders in the UK, including Thomas Clarkson and Granville Sharp, and helped to prevent many other Black men from being forced into slavery.


Written success


After learning how to read and write in England (he wasn’t educated as a child due to being enslaved), he published an account of his experiences. He hoped that revealing the realities of being enslaved to the public might help his cause to end slavery.


He was the first African, and former enslaved person, to publicly demand the abolition of the slave trade. Despite this, politicians rejected his demands, and so he continued to release more books about slavery, advocating for its abolition by criticising the arguments to keep slavery (particularly religious ones), as well as wanting justice for enslaved people and the freedom of all enslaved Africans across the world.


Eventually, these publications created some positive change, and some of his ideas were adopted by the organisation, Enlightenment Europe. This led to the declaration of the human rights of Africans and their freedom.

How do you think Ottobah’s childhood impacted his life? Why do you think that Ottobah spoke out about slavery even though it was risky as no-one had done it before? What personality traits do you think Ottabah has based on his story?

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