Portrait of Mohammah G. Baquaqua

Slavery and Freedom Exhibition, NMAAHC; Inset: “Portrait of Mohammah G. Baquaqua,” Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library.

 

Since its inception, in the spirit of Carter G. Woodson, Sapelo Square has commemorated Black History Month with daily Black Muslim History facts. This year, Sapelo Square is exploring the Muslim collection at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). During Black History Month, we will display a different object each day from the collection, showing how the objects help tell the rich histories of Muslims of African descent in the United States. View the entire series at our dedicated Black History Month 2021 page.

 

Featured in NMAAHC’s Slavery and Freedom Exhibition, Mohammah G. Baquauqua’s portrait represents just one of the estimated 20%-30% of Africans brought to North America during slavery who were Muslim. He was born into a Muslim family in the late 1820s in present-day Benin, where as a child he studied the Qur’an. In 1845, slavers captured him and sold him into slavery, eventually embarking him on a slave ship bound for Brazil. He was ultimately brought to New York, where he escaped to freedom in 1847, after which he traveled to Boston, then Haiti, and finally settled in Canada. He detailed his life story, including his conversion to Christianity, in his biography published in 1854. His is one of the few written accounts we have of the experiences of African Muslims who were enslaved in the Americas, made especially unique for its transnational nature.

 

 

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