Project Director: Bruno Véras

He was born free. Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua as many other Africans enslaved in the Americas had a hometown, a family and in his youth suffered from the violence of war. He was enslaved and exported through the most important slave port in West Africa, the notorious Ouidah (Whydah), in the kingdom of Dahomey. When he was sent to Brazil in a slave ship and unloaded on a beach in Pernambuco in 1845, the transatlantic slave trade was already prohibited in Brazil. Hence his condition as a slave was illegal. As a member of a Muslim family in Africa, Baquaqua learned how to write in Arabic. In Brazil he learned Portuguese, and later learned some French and Haitian créole during the two years he spent in Haiti. In upstate New York he attended school at New York Central College, from where he wrote many letters to noted abolitionists. In 1854 he completed his autobiography in Chatham, which was published in Detroit, with the help of an editor, Samuel Moore. Baquaqua’s memories are a particularly important narrative of the African diaspora. As with other biographical accounts, it permits us to hear the voice of the individual beyond the the slavery context. Project Baquaqua provides the opportunity to imagine, understand and learn from the isolation of otherness that those called slaves had to endure through empathy and projection.

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