Cambridge bridge renamed in honour of abolitionist Olaudah Equiano

  • Watch Stuart Leithes' report about the bridge named in Olaudah Equiano's honour

A bridge has been renamed to honour an 18th century African man who paid his way out of slavery and campaigned against the slave trade.

After buying his freedom, Olaudah Equiano joined the abolitionist movement in England and wrote a best-selling book about his time as a slave.

In his later life, he lived in Soham in Cambridgeshire, where a plaque has been fitted on the footbridge over the River Cam - now known as the Equiano Bridge.

School children attended the unveiling of the plaque on Monday Credit: ITV News Anglia

Equiano was kidnapped into slavery in Nigeria when he was 11.He was later sold to a Royal Navy officer, then to a ship's captain and then to a merchant, Robert King, in Montserrat.

He worked as a deckhand, valet and barber for King, and earned enough money by trading on the side to eventually buy his own freedom.

After he was freed, he settled in England in the late 1700s and joined the abolitionist movement working to end the slave trade.

And he published a memoir about his time as a slave in which he said he wanted to "excite in your august assemblies a sense of compassion for the miseries which the slave trade as entailed on my unfortunate countrymen".

Equiano married an English woman, Susannah Cullen, and the pair settled in Soham.

One of his two daughters, Anna, who died aged four - is commemorated at St Andrews Church in Cambridge.

The renaming of the bridge had been organised by Cambridgeshire County Council in collaboration with community groups in the city.

The footbridge over the River Cam was previously known as Riverside Bridge Credit: ITV Anglia

Isaac Ayamba, chairman of the Cambridge African Network, said: "Equiano travelled the country, up and down, sharing his experiences, talking about slavery and it helped sway public opinion against slavery.

"He did not live long enough to see the fruits of his labour - he died in 1797, and 10 years later the slave trade was abolished." Cambridgeshire County Councillor Alex Beckett said: "So much of our black history simply gets forgotten, or goes unmarked and it's great to be able to have something where people can come along, see the plaque and actually understand the history and what happened."

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