Olaudah Equiano was one of the first black abolitionists to visit Ireland, travelling to the country in May 1791. He was regarded as a leading spokesperson on enslavement and was also a gifted writer and lecturer. In 1789 he published his autobiography, 'The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African'. He travelled widely promoting the book, which became immensely popular, helping the abolitionist cause. It is one of the earliest books published by a black African writer.
He arrived in Ireland at a time of heightened revolutionary activity in Europe in the wake of the French Revolution of 1789. During his visit to Belfast, Equiano stayed with Samuel Neilson, a member of the Charitable Society, founder and editor of the radical, abolitionist newspaper the Northern Star and a founding member of the United Irishmen. Although primarily remembered as Irish separatists, it was the United Irishmen's promotion of equality and abolitionism that most interested Dreph.
It was members of this society who hosted Equiano during most of his visit. Consequently, African-born Equiano, a former slave, unwittingly found himself at the centre of radical Irish politics.
This mural is based on a black and white portrait painted by William Denton and engraved by Daniel Orme. It was commissioned by Equiano as a frontispiece to The Interesting Narrative.