Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua


Memoir published 1854 New York Central College Photo: Wikimedia Commons

New York Central College, McGrawville, NY

“NYCC was an experiment in higher education from 1849-1860. The college was for black and white, male and female students, with black and white male and female teachers.” New York Heritage Digital Collection Accessed 10/20/2020.

“Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua was born around 1824 in Djougou, Benin, to a prominent Muslim family…..Baquaqua arrived in Brazil around 1845 and was initially enslaved by a baker in Recife. In 1847, he came under the ownership of Clemente Jose da Costa who was the captain and co-owner of the ship Lembranfa. In April 1847, the Lembranfa sailed to trade goods in New York. Learning before the voyage that New York was a “land of freedom,” Baquaquqa escaped the Lembranfa and, with the help of local abolitionists, appealed for his freedom through the court. When the appeal was denied, Baquaqua was sent to prison to await his re-enslavement by Jose da Costa. Baquaqua escaped from the cell, however, and with “the assistance of…friends,” absconded to Boston.

From Boston, Baquaqua was given passage to Haiti. It was here, in 1849, that he became closely acquainted with Rev. William L. Judd, a Baptist Missionary, and converted to Christianity. In late 1849, Baquaqua sailed with Judd’s wife to New York where he enrolled in New York Central College in McGrawville, which had been established in 1848 by the American Baptist Free Mission Society. With his education, Baquaqua hoped to return to Africa as a missionary.

Though Baquaqua disappears from the historical record after 1857, the written narrative of his experience as an enslaved and free man in the Atlantic world survives. The legacy of this narrative lends an important voice to the conditions of slavery and the slave trade in the Atlantic world during the mid-nineteenth century.”


Law, Robin and Paul Lovejoy. The Biography of Mahmommah Gardo Baquaqua , His Passage from Slavery to Freedom in Africa and America. Markus Wiener, 2007.

“Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua.” Slavery and Remembrance.” Accessed 10/10/2020.

Moore, Samuel. “A Biography of the Life of Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua Accessed 11/3/2020.