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

“Baquaqua, born in the commercial town of Djougou (in northern Benin) in the 1820s and raised as a Dendi-speaking Muslim, lived a busy life as iron smith and palace servant, and was once captured and ransomed. Then he was kidnapped in what might have been late 1844 and transported to Recife in about 1845. In June 1847 he arrived in New York on a Brazilian vessel, and there was able to gain his freedom after a court proceeding. He then went to Haiti for two years, returned to New York, and in 1850 began studies at Central College. This exemplary volume is worthy of study and emulation. There may not be many other texts that allow such a rich reconstruction, but the extensive detail and clear overview of the present edition contrast powerfully with the previous versions, which left Baquaqua as an interesting but unconnected voice in the wilderness. Bringing the history of the African diaspora back to life requires a combination, successful in this case, of determined voices from the past with energetic scholars today who can locate and amplify the remains of those voices. ”

International Journal of African Historical Studies

“The appearance of Law and Lovejoy’s edition represents a significant advance in the scholarly interpretation and presentation of the biography. Their conclusions are based on extensive and often collaborative research, which is marshaled in the introduction, footnotes, and 56 pages of appendixes. Particularly provocative is Law and Lovejoy’s reading of the commercial and cosmopolitan background of Baquaqua’s kin and community and his consequent diverse ethnic, religious, and linguistic inheritance. Entering into ongoing debates about African ethnicity and American creolization, they conclude that perhaps scholars have underestimated the degree to which African-born slaves in the Americas had ‘a choice among alternative ethnic identities.’ … Given the editors’ scholarly rigor, this book represents the authoritative edition of Baquaqua’s narrative. ”

Hispanic American Historical Review