Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua

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Book cover of Baquaqua's memoirs, published in 1854

Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua[1] was a former slave, native of Zooggoo, West Africa, a tributary kingdom of Bergoo kingdom. He was literate in Arabic at the time of his capture, and recited a prayer in Arabic before an audience at New York Central College, where he studied from 1849–1853.[2] He worked in Brazil as a captive; however, he escaped and fled to New York in 1847, assuring his freedom. He wrote a biography, published by American abolitionist Samuel Moore in 1854. His report is the only known document about the slave trade written by a former Brazilian slave.[3]


Baquaqua was born in Djougou (currently in Benin) between 1820 and 1830 in a prominent Muslim trader family. He learned the Quran, literature and mathematics in an Islamic school. Still as an adolescent, he and his brother took part in the succession wars in Daboya, where he was captured and then rescued.

Returning to Djougou, he became the servant of a local dignitary, perhaps the chief of Soubroukou, whom he called 'king'. The abuses he committed in that period made him target of an ambush in which he was imprisoned and transported to Dahomey; he was embarked into a slave ship in 1845 and taken to Pernambuco in Brazil.

Baquaqua was a slave in Olinda, Pernambuco for around two years. His master was a baker. He worked in the construction of houses, carrying stones, learned Portuguese, and performed as an "escravo de tabuleiro" (peddling slave). The cruelty of his Brazilian masters made him resort to alcoholism and attempt suicide.

Taken to Rio de Janeiro, Baquaqua was incorporated with the crew of the trade ship Lembrança ("A Memory"), transporting goods to the southern provinces of Brazil. In 1847, a coffee shipment to the United States was his passport to freedom. The ship arrived in New York harbor in June, where it was approached by local abolitionists, who encouraged him to escape from the ship. After the escape, however, he was imprisoned in the local jail, and only the help of the abolitionists (who facilitated his escape from prison) prevented his return to the ship. He was then sent to Haiti, where he lived with the Reverend W. L. Judd, a Baptist missionary.

Converted to Christianity and baptized in 1848, Baquaqua returned to the US due to the political instability in Haiti. He studied at the New York Central College in upstate New York for almost three years. In 1854, he moved to Canada; his autobiography was published the same year in Detroit by Samuel Downing Moore.

It is not known what happened to Baquaqua after 1857. He was then in England and had turned to the American Baptist Free Mission Society to be sent as a missionary to Africa.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lovejoy, Paul E. (2002). "IDENTIDADE E A MIRAGEM DA ETNICIDADE A JORNADA DE MAHOMMAH GARDO BAQUAQUA PARA AS AMÉRICAS" (PDF). Afroasia. Federal University of Bahia. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
  2. ^ |othersPart 2, arranged alphabetically |titla=New York Central College 1849–1860 McGrawville, N.Y. The first college in the U.S. to employ black professors Xfirst=Marlene K. |last=Parks |year=2017 |volume=1}}
  3. ^ "Historiadores traduzem única autobiografia escrita por ex-escravo que viveu no Brasil". O Globo (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2015-11-30.
  4. ^ "Baquaqua, Mahommah Gardo (1824?-1857?) The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed". Retrieved 2015-11-30.

Further reading[edit]

  • AUSTIN, Allan D. African Muslims in antebellum America: transatlantic stories and spiritual struggles. New York: Routledge, 1997.
  • Baquaqua, Mahommah Gardo (2001). Law, Robin; Lovejoy, Paul E. (eds.). The biography of Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua. His passage from slavery to freedom in Africa and America. Princeton, New Jersey: Markus Wiener Publishers. ISBN 1558762477.
  • ELBERT, Sarah. Introduction to American Prejudice Against Color. York: Maple Press, 2002.
  • FOSS e MATHEWS. Facts for Baptist Churches. Atica, NY, 1850.
  • LOVEJOY, Paul E. Identidade e a miragem da etnicidade: a jornada de Mahhomah Gardo Baquaqua para as Américas. Afro-Asia, n. 27, p. 9-39, 2002.
  • KRUEGER, Robert. Biografia e narrativa do ex-escravo Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua. Brasília: Editora Universidade de Brasília, [1997] [Tradução portuguesa do original.]

External links[edit]