Joanna Vassa
English congregationalist
Joanna Vassa
Joanna Vassa was the only surviving child of the former slave and anti-slavery campaigner Olaudah Equiano. Her grave has recently been rediscovered, but little is known of her life. Vassa was born to an English woman, Susannah Cullen of Fordham, Cambridgeshire, and Olaudah Equiano, also known as "Gustavus Vassa, the African". Her father was well known for his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano.
Joanna Vassa's personal information overview.
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  • 1857
    Age 62
    She died of uterine disease, possibly brought on by fibroids, on 10 March 1857, aged 61.
    More Details Hide Details She was buried on 16 March in Abney Park Cemetery, close to the memorial statue to Isaac Watts on the axial walk from the chapel to Stoke Newington Church Street. Her husband Henry survived her for twenty years, and was buried with her on 12 February 1878. It has not been discovered whether they had any children. Her memorial at Abney Park was re-pinned and re-erected in 2006, in time for the 150th anniversary of her death in 2007. This coincided with the bicentenary of the Act which abolished the slave trade in the British Empire, a goal towards which her father had worked.
  • 1845
    Age 50
    On 26 October 1845, Rev. Henry Bromley resigned from his congregation, citing his wife's health as the reason.
    More Details Hide Details She was 50 years old and he was 48. The couple moved to London that year for her health, her husband taking on only occasional commitments at Clavering thereafter. He became a minister at the Providence Chapel in Harwich during 1851, whilst Joanna lived with his family in Stowmarket, Suffolk. Eventually, she moved back to London and resided at 21 Benyan Terrace, Buckingham Road, in Hackney, but there is no record of Henry living with her.
  • 1821
    Age 26
    It is not clear how Joanna met her future husband, the Congregational minister, Rev. Henry Bromley, but on 29 August 1821, they were married at St. James, Clerkenwell, a Anglican parish church in London.
    More Details Hide Details He had been ordained a minister at the Independent Chapel in Appledore in Devon, two months previous to the wedding. He was 24 years old and Joanna was 26. They settled in Devon for at least five years until they moved to the Congregational Church (present day United Reformed Church) at Clavering, Essex, where Rev. Bromley was pastor between 1827 and 1845. He was a member of Clavering Reading Society throughout his time there.
  • 1816
    Age 21
    In 1816, on reaching her 21st birthday, Joanna Vassa, being Equiano's only known surviving relative, inherited a silver watch and £950 from his estate; the National Archives inflation calculator gives an approximate equivalence of £32 000 in 2005 pounds.
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  • 1797
    Age 2
    This was shortly followed by the death of her elder sister and only sibling Anna Maria (born 30 January 1793), on 21 July 1797.
    More Details Hide Details Mixed race children were not common in eighteenth century England, but nor, as the British Empire grew, were they unknown, especially in the capital and port cities.
  • 1795
    Age 0
    She was born to Susannah Cullen of Fordham, Cambridgeshire, and Olaudah Equiano, (also known as "Gustavus Vassa, the African") on 11 April 1795, and baptised on 29 April.
    More Details Hide Details Her father was well known for his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1789). Her mother was a subscriber to Equiano's Narrative and they were married on 7 April 1792 in Soham. The year after Joanna's birth, Susannah died of an illness on 21 February, and was buried at St Andrew's Church, Soham. Her father died just over a year later.
Original Authors of this text are noted here.
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