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

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Winner of the Casa de las Am rica Prize for Brazilian Literature, The Story of Rufino reconstructs the lively biography of Rufino Jos Maria, set against the historical context of Brazil and Africa in the nineteenth century.

The book tells the story of Rufino or Abuncare, a Yoruba Muslim from the kingdom of Oyo, in present-day Nigeria. Enslaved as an adolescent by a rival ethnic group, he was captured by Brazilian slave traders and taken to Brazil as a slave sometime in the early 1820s. In 1835, after being enslaved in Salvador and Rio Grande do Sul, Rufino bought his freedom with money he made as a hired-out slave and perhaps from making Islamic amulets. He found work in Rio de Janeiro as a cook on a slave ship bound for Luanda in Angola, despite the trans-Atlantic slave trade having been illegal in Brazil since 1831. Rufino himself became a petty slave trader. He made a few voyages before his ship was captured by the British and taken to Sierra Leone in 1841 for trial by the Anglo-Brazilian Mixed Commission to determine if it was equipped for the slave trade, since there were no slaves on board. During the three months awaiting the court's decision, Rufino lived among Yoruba Muslims, his people, and attended Quranic and Arabic classes. He later returned to Sierra Leone as a witness in a court case and attended classes with Muslim masters for almost two years. Once back in Brazil, he established himself as a diviner — serving whites and blacks, free and slaves, Brazilians and Africans, Muslim and non-Muslims — as well as a spiritual leader, an Alufa, in the local Afro-Muslim community. In 1853 Rufino was arrested due to rumors of an imminent African slave revolt. The police used as evidence for his arrest the large number of Arabic manuscripts in his possession, the same kind of material the police had found with Muslim rebels in Bahia thirty years earlier. During his interrogation, Rufino told his life story, which is used to reconstruct the world in which he lived under slavery and in freedom on African shores, aboard slave ships, and in Brazil.

An extraordinary Atlantic history carefully pieced together from the archives, The Story of Rufino illuminates the complexities of slavery and freedom in Africa and Brazil and the resilience of ethnic and religious identities.

ISBN-13: 9780190224363

Media Type: Hardcover

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Publication Date: 01-08-2020

Pages: 324

Product Dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

Jo o Jos Reis is Professor of History at the "Three of the leading historians of slavery and the African diaspora in the South Atlantic have teamed up to bring us the remarkable story of Rufino Jos Maria, also known as Abuncare. Through painstaking research in a vast range of sources, the authors enable us to follow Rufino's travels across the Atlantic and back, through slavery and a degree of freedom, as both a victim and a participant in the transatlantic trade. Rufino's story is, in many respects, an exceptional one, but his struggles, compromises, and accomplishments as an African and a Muslim vividly illuminate the many worlds he inhabited during the waning decades of a trade whose tragic imprint is still visible on both sides of the Atlantic." — Barbara Weinstein, New York University |k Y Rebellion in Brazil: The Muslim Uprising of 1835 in Bahia and Divining Slavery and Freedom, among other books. Fl vio dos Santos Gomes is Professor of History at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro and the author of Communaut s d'esclaves insoumis, among other works on Brazilian and Caribbean slavery. Marcus J. M. de Carvalho is Professor of History at the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco and the author of Liberdade: rotinas e rupturas do escravismo and other works on slavery in Brazil.

Table of Contents


Part I
Chapter 1: Rufino's Africa
Chapter 2: Enslaved in Bahia
Chapter 3: Enslaved in Porto Alegre
Chapter 4: Farroupilha and Freedom
Chapter 5: Freedman in Rio de Janeiro
Chapter 6: Rio de Janeiro, A City in Fear

Part II
Chapter 7: Rufino Joins the Slave Trade
Chapter 8: Luanda, Slave-trading Capital of Angola
Chapter 9: Readying the Ermelinda
Chapter 10: Rufino's Employers
Chapter 11: Passengers, Shippers, and Cargo
Chapter 12: The Ermelinda Goes to Sea
Chapter 13: The Equipment Act
Chapter 14: Sierra Leone
Chapter 15: Among Akus and African Muslims
Chapter 16: The trial of the Ermelinda
Chapter 17: Dirty Tricks
Chapter 18: Back to Sea

Part III
Chapter 19: Counting the Costs
Chapter 20: Rufino's Recife
Chapter 21: A Man of Faith and Sorcery
Chapter 22: Tense Times in Rufino's Recife
Chapter 23: A Free Man
Chapter 24: The Muslims of Recife and a Doctrinal Dispute

Sources and Works Cited