The Story of Rufino: Slavery, Freedom, and Islam in the Black Atlantic

João José Reis, Flávio dos Santos Gomes, Marcus J. M. de Carvalho

The book tells the story of Rufino, or Abuncare, a Yoruba Muslim from the kingdom of Oyo, who came to Brazil as a slave in c. 1823 and lived in the Atlantic cities of Salvador, Porto Alegre, Rio de Janeiro, Recife (all in Brazil), and Freetown in Sierra Leone. In Salvador, he lived his first eight years as a slave; then he was taken to Porto Alegre by his young master and sold there. He bought his freedom in 1835 with money he made as a hire-out slave and then moved to Rio de Janeiro. Here Rufino started to work as a cook on a slave ship bound to Luanda. In late 1841, after a few slave trading voyages between Africa and Recife, his ship was captured by the British and sent to Freetown, where he took Qur’ānic and Arabic classes in the local Yoruba community. Still an employee of the slave trade, he would later return to Sierra Leone complete his studies. Back to Recife, he made a living as a diviner, serving all sorts of clients, whites and blacks, free and slaves. He also became a leader in the local Afro-Muslim community. In 1853, Rufino was arrested in Recife due to rumors of an imminent African slave revolt. Rufino left several traces of his personal experience as a slave and a freeman in Africa, Brazil, and aboard a slave ship. The book revolves around his life, which is used as a lead to discuss the slave trade, slavery, and the resilience of ethnic and religious identities as seen through the experience of an individual.

Published on 28/01/2020
Oxford University Press