Ottobah Cugoano and Adoption

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Engraving of an African slave, used to represent Cugoano


ca. 1757-?

Also known as Quobna and John Steuart

African-British abolitionist

An Igbo born in Ghana, Cugoano was captured by slavers when about 13 and shipped to Grenada in the Caribbean. In 1772 he was brought to England by a new owner and freed. He took the name John Steuart and was baptized to avoid re-enslavement. He soon became a leader of the African-British community and a servant of the court painter Richard Cosway.

He was one of those instrumental in the rescue of Henry Demane in 1786, preventing his shipment to the West Indies, and he became a leading abolitionist. He was the first abolitionist to advocate the moral right and duty of slaves to resist slavery.


Fryer, Peter. Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain. (London: Pluto Press, 1984) Bygott, David. Black and British. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992) Cugoano, Ottobah. Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil of Slavery and Other Writings. (New York: Penguin, 1999) (Penguin Classics) Black Atlantic Writers of the Eighteenth Century: Living the New Exodus in England and the Americas, edited by Adam Potkay and Sandra Burr. (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1995) Obiechina, Emmanuel."1994 Ahiajoku Lecture. Nchetaka: The Story, Memory and Continuity of Igbo Culture." Available at:*../I-files/Igbo.dir/Ahiajoku_Lectures/ahiajoku_Lec94.htm