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In 1854, the Geo. E. Pomeroy & Co. published An Interesting Narrative. Biography of Mahommah G. Baquaqua, a native of Zoogoo, in the interior of Africa (A Convert to Christianity,) with a Description of That Part of the World; including the Manners and Customs of the Inhabitants in Detroit, Michigan. Baquaqua’s narrative did not gain as much attention as others in the genre published around the same time. The narrative only survived in eight copies though it was published by an editor that was able to sell hundreds of thousands of copies of an essay to a similar audience. This essay explores the circumstances under which Baquaqua’s pamphlet found publication and how that may have influenced the written narrative and its legacy.
Baquaqua was the sole author of his narrative, legally. However, the literary makeup of the narrative was likely changed by the contributions of many. The religious, explorative, and economic forces acting upon the publishers of the narrative drove them all to Detroit. The American Baptist Free Mission’s flaky response to Baquaqua’s aspirations and his own experience traveling and carving out opportunities prepared him to make connections in new places. In Detroit, Baquaqua was able to find a suitable printer and editor to publish his narrative.
Even if their relationship was only superficial, the editor and publisher had opportunity to alter the final narrative and change Baquaqua’s written legacy. While certainly Baquaqua would have hoped to write his biography on his own terms, his resources were limited. Financially, Baquaqua could not pursue enterprise in the ways white men could. Linguistically, Baquaqua was not able to finish his education at New York Central College due to scandal. And emotionally, Baquaqua had been away from his home for nearly two decades. His desperation to return to his family was evident in his letters. These factors contributed to the final product that became The Narrative of Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua.
Bicknell, Alexandra, "Graduating Presentations 2020: Six Point Convergence - "The Neapolitan Regional Lady Swimmers"" (2020). Honors Theses. 3331.
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