Journey Back to Freedom
Journey Back to Freedom is the true story of Olaudah Equiano, an eighteenth-century writer and activist who was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery. Written in first-person narration from Olu’s perspective, the book follows the young boy’s eventful sea journeys and his training as a sailor. Olu speaks directly to the reader, telling the reader about his struggle to remain hopeful and his desperation to return to his family. The book draws on the reader’s own knowledge, asking them to recall their history lessons on slavery and the slave trade.
Johnson writes of the cruelty Olu experienced at the hands of white slave owners, both physical and psychological. She details the destruction of his identity at the hands of the slave traders, first by changing his name, and second by denying him his humanity. Olu’s story is one of cruelty and hardship, and Johnson does not shy away from the details of his experiences.
Despite the cruelty and hardship Olu experiences, he finds friendship, kindness, and crucially, a man willing to allow Olu to buy his freedom. Through focusing on an individual child, Journey Back to Freedom highlights the horrors experienced by children who were stolen from their homes and sold into slavery. The book introduces readers to the lived realities of enslaved people and adds to readers’ knowledge of the British slave trade.