Homework: Narrative of Olaudah Equiano

Tonight, you will read a selection from The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, detailing his experiences with the trans-Atlantic slave system.  Please respond to the following prompt on a separate sheet of paper:

In the full narrative of Olaudah Equiano’s experiences with slavery, he describes his personal background and the cultural from which he was taken as a slave.  While the portion of the narrative you have does not directly provide information about Equiano’s background, it does, however, suggest certain things about his culture.  What assumptions might you make about Equiano’s background, based on what he writes in this passage?  (Are there any guesses as to his cultural practices, social norms, taboos, or beliefs which you would feel comfortable making based on what you’ve read?

Consider when and why Equiano wrote his narrative.  To whom does he think he is writing?  Do you think that might have had an effect on WHAT he chose to write?  If so, why?

Please try to provide specific textual references as you answer the above discussion points!

Homework: The Pristine Myth

Your homework tonight is to read, annotate, and comment on the article I handed out in class today– an interview from The Atlantic involving the author of 1491, Charles Mann.  Use what you have read to answer the following discussion points:

  • One of Mann’s central points in his book 1491 is that there is evidence that the population of the Americas prior to European contact was much, much higher than previous studies suggested.  Why does Mann say that this is a contentious issue among historians and environmentalists?

  • What is the “pristine myth” Mann and the author of this article, Katie Bacon, are referring to in the title?  Why might it disturb or upset some people to think of native American peoples radically altering their environment?

  • In what way does Mann think Amerindians were a “keystone species?”  What does he mean by that?

  • Do the Americas Mann describes– one filled with people who radically altered their environment by regularly burning the prairie, managing woodlands, and possibly even planting the Amazon– match with your existing ideas of native peoples prior to contact with Afro-Eurasia?  Why or why not?

Remember, normal commenting rules apply: one good comment which adequately addresses all of the above points can earn up to 95%, while a comment AND a reply to a colleague can earn up to 100%.  Also, I’ll be working at the Magnet Open House this evening, and will therefore not be on my phone every moment– so if you post a comment and don’t immediately see it, don’t panic.  I probably just haven’t had a moment to read and approve it.