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William Ansah Sessarakoo
*The birth of William Ansah Sessarakoo is celebrated on this date in c. 1736. He was a Black African slave trader and writer. He was prominent among his Fante people and influential among Europeans concerned with the Middle Passage.
Ansah was born in Annamaboe, the then-largest slave-trading port on the Gold Coast (modern-day Ghana). His father, John Corrente, was the head of Anomabo’s government, a chief official responsible for supplying African slaves to European traders), and an important ally for anyone living or trading in the city. Accordingly, Ansah and his family were interested in the many European polities competing for access to abundant Anomabo trade. After sending Ansah's brother to France, Corrente sent Ansah to England to gain an education, curry favor with the English, and serve as his eyes and ears in Europe. Before reaching England, the ship captain entrusted with Ansah's transport sold him into slavery in Barbados.
Years later, a free Fante trader discovered Ansah in Barbados and alerted John Corrente of his son's fate. Corrente petitioned the British to free Ansah, and the Royal African Company, the English joint-stock company operating the slave trade, liberated Ansah and transported him to England. In England, Ansah was received as a prince and gained the respect of London's high society. Most notably, he watched a live performance of Oroonoko and, much to the audience's surprise, fled the theatre in tears. The play depicted a wrongly enslaved African prince who likely reminded Ansah much of himself. Upon returning to Anomabo, Ansah worked as a writer at Cape Coast Castle, the primary British fortification on the Gold Coast. After leaving Cape Coast on bad terms, Ansah worked as a slave trader.
William Ansah Sessarakoo, a prominent 18th-century merchant, died in 1770 on the Gold Coast.