The Biography of Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua: His Passage from Slavery to Freedom in Africa and America

By Harms, Robert | African Studies Review, September 2007 | Go to article overview

The Biography of Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua: His Passage from Slavery to Freedom in Africa and America


Harms, Robert, African Studies Review


Robin Law and Paul Lovejoy, eds. The Biography of Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua: His Passage from Slavery to Freedom in Africa and America. Revised and expanded second edition. Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2007. xix + 278 pp. Illustrations. Maps. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $69.95. Cloth. $22.95. Paper.

Slave-route narratives-memoirs written or narrated by Africans who had been caught up in the vortex of the trans-Atlantic slave trade-have long been an indispensable source for understanding the operations of the slave trade within Africa, the horrors of the middle passage, and the experience of slaves in die new world. It is unfortunate and frustrating that there are so few of them. Philip Curtin's Africa Remembered, published some forty years ago, provided scholars with an invaluable compendium of all the slave-route narratives known at the time. Despite enormous amounts of research on the slave trade in the ensuing years, surprisingly litde of the canon has changed. One development is that the accuracy of the bestknown work of this genre, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa the African, has been questioned in Vincent Caretta's recent biography of Equiano, raising serious doubts as to whether Equiano was really born in Africa.

Nevertheless, several new slave-route narratives have been discovered in recent years, and these exist mostly in the form of memoirs, pamphlets, or broadsides. The University of North Carolina Library's extensive collection of North American Slave Narratives (http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh) contains five slave-route narratives that were not in Curtin's original 1967 collection: the narratives of Cugoano Ottobah, Boyrereau Brinch, Venture Smith, Abdul Rahhaman, and Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua, all of which are now available online. The 1828 pamphlet on Abdul Rahhaman was used by Terry Afford in writing the story of Ibrahima in Prince Among Slaves (Oxford University Press, 1977). The memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, originally published in 1810, were recendy edited by Karl J. Winter and republished (University of Wisconsin Press, 2004). The Biography of Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua, under review here, was first published as a pamphlet in 1854. …

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