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 in Central Africa, a tributary kingdom of Bergoo kingdom. 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 slave trade written by a Brazilian former slave.[2]


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

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

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

Taken to Rio de Janeiro, Baquaqua was incorporated to the crew of the trade ship Lembrança, transporting goods to the southern provinces of Brazil. A coffee shipment to the United States, in 1847, was his passport to freedom. The ship arrived to 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 (that facilitated his escape from prison) prevented he was returned to the ship. It was then sent to Haiti, where he lived with the reverend Judd, a Baptist missionary.

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

It 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.[3]

See also


  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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Historiadores traduzem única autobiografia escrita por ex-escravo que viveu no Brasil". O Globo (in português). Retrieved 2015-11-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Baquaqua, Mahommah Gardo (1824?-1857?) | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed". Retrieved 2015-11-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • AUSTIN, Allan D. African Muslims in antebellum America: transatlantic stories and spiritual struggles. New York: Routledge, 1997.
  • BAQUAQUA. Biografia de Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua; Edição com notas de Allan D. Austin.
  • 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