Mahommah Baquaqua

Location: Natioanl Museum of African American History and Culture, 1400 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20560


“Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua was born around 1824 in Djougou, Benin, to a prominent Muslim family. In his teen years, Baquaqua became a favored bodyguard to the chief of a neighboring town that was subordinate to Djougou. Because of his position, Baquaqua wrote, “I was…singled out as a fit object of vengeance by an envious class of my countrymen, decoyed away and sold into slavery.” As a slave, Baquaqua was sold southward from his home in Djougou to Dahomey, where he was sold to Portuguese slave dealers.

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….”  Accessed 7/7/2019

Photo credit: the


Lovejoy, Robin Law. Biography of Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua : His Passage from Slavery to Freedom in Africa and America. Wiener, Marcus, 2009.

Photo credit: Africa Access