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.
About the author
Sabrina Gledhill is a British Brazilianist. Raised in Puerto Rico, she lived in Brazil for nearly thirty years before returning to the UK in 2015. Sabrina has an MA in Latin American Studies from UCLA and a PhD in Ethnic and African Studies from the Universidade Federal da Bahia and is the author of Travessias no Atlântico Negro: reflexões sobre Booker T. Washington e Manuel R. Querino (Salvador: Edufba, 2020), originally published as an e-book in 2018 and available on Kindle. She has also produced several book chapters and scholarly articles on the Afro-Brazilian black vindicationist Manuel Querino. She co-edited and co-authored the catalogue for the “Axé Bahia: The Power of Art in an Afro-Brazilian Metropolis” exhibition at the Fowler Museum at UCLA. An award-winning translator, her publications include Death is a Festival and Divining Slavery and Freedom: The Story of Domingos Sodré, an African Priest in Nineteenth Century Brazil, both by João José Reis, and The Story of Rufino: Slavery, Freedom and Islam in the Black Atlantic, by João José Reis, Flávio Gomes and Marcus J.M. Carvalho, published in 2020 by the Oxford University Press.
Title: The Story of Rufino: Slavery, Freedom, and Islam in the Black Atlantic
Author: Sabrina Gledhill
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Length: 324 pages
Pub. Date: January 8, 2020