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Manoel Joaquim Ricardo

Manoel Joaquim Ricardo was an African-born Bahian entrepreneur and one of a small number of freed Africans who were able to achieve social and economic prominence in nineteenth-century Brazil.
Ricardo was of Hausa (from Modern Nigeria and Niger) origin and was probably enslaved during the Fulani jihad (1804–10), which saw the defeat of Hausa kingdoms and many Hausa slaves transported  to Bahia.
Ricardo remained enslaved for more than three decades, until his master manumitted all of his sixteen slaves in his will. Unlike most of his contemporaries, Ricardo managed to establish himself as a merchant and even acquire slaves of his own while still enslaved in Salvador de Bahia. Like his former master, Ricardo would eventually invest in slave trading and other merchant activities on the African continent.
The prosperity Ricardo enjoyed is attested by the large house he occupied until his death, which included slave quarters. Many of Ricardo’s slaves were listed as wage-earners (escravos de ganho), urban slaves who generated good incomes for their masters by selling diverse goods on the streets of Salvador. In turn, wage-earning slaves shared a small part of the master’s profits, enabling many to save enough money to purchase their own freedom.
Ricardo’s life was disrupted by the 1835 slave and Muslim-led uprising known as the Malê Revolt. The provincial government promptly issued a law targeting African residents, leading to mass imprisonment, confiscation of property, and deportation to Africa. Not directly charged, Ricardo nevertheless had to employ ingenious maneuvers to avoid penalties. These included purchasing property in the name of his Brazilian-born children and redirecting investments to the purchase of slaves, one of the few remaining legal economic activities for freed Africans.
Likely a Muslim by origin, Ricard was a self-declared Catholic but also maintained close connections to Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian syncretic religion centered on the cult of the Yorubá Orishas (deities). He was friends with the freed African and Candomblé priest Domingos Sodré, and oral tradition suggests that he was the founding priest of the highly regarded Oxumaré temple in Salvador. It is plausible that Ricardo tried to keep his Afro-Brazilian religiosity out of the spotlight to avoid police repression.
Upon his death in 1865, Ricardo was given a full Catholic burial. The fortune he left behind included land, three houses, and twenty-seven slaves. As such, he occupied a rare position among the narrow economic elite of Bahia, consisting mostly of free born Euro-descendants.

Read the full, original biography by Genaro Vilanova Miranda de Oliveira in The Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography

View complete story (pdf)

Online Resources

Casa de Òsùmàrè (website). www.casadeoxumare.com.br.

 “Voyage 51434, Ceres (1806)” Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database http://www.slavevoyages.org/voyage/51434/variables

“Voyage 51476, Ceres (1807)” Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database http://www.slavevoyages.org/voyage/51476/variables


Castillo, Lisa Earl. “O terreiro do Alaketu e seus fundadores: História e genealogia familiar, 1807–1867.” Afro-Ásia 43 (2011): 213–59.

de Oliveira, Genaro Vilanova Miranda. "Ricardo, Manoel Joaquim." Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography , edited by Ed. Franklin W. Knight. , edited by and Henry Louis Gates Jr.. .Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com/article/opr/t456/e1761 (accessed Thu Sep 05 10:55:21 EDT 2019).

Nascimento, Luiz Cláudio Dias do. “‘Terra de Macumbeiros’: Redes de Sociabilidades Africanas na formação do Candomblé JeJe-Nagô em Cachoeira e São Félix-Bahia.” M.A. diss., Universidade Federal da Bahia, 2007.

Reis, João José. “From Slave to Wealthy African Freedman: The Story of Manoel Joaquim Ricardo.” In Biography and the Black Atlantic, edited by Lisa A. Lindsay and John Wood Sweet, pp. 131–45. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.


Genaro Vilanova Miranda de Oliveira

Adapted by

James Almeida and Steven J. Niven

Contributing Institutions

Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

Oxford University Press (USA) African American Studies Center.

Key Events

c. 1806

Ricardo arrives in Salvador, probably on his master’s ship Ceres, which landed with slaves on April 20, 1806 and April 18, 1807.


A receipt indicates that Ricardo is an established vendor of beans, rice, corn, and manioc flour in Salvador’s main indoor market.


Ricardo purchases an African-born slave known as Thomazia for 150 mil-réis.


He begins a relationship with Rosa Maria da Conceição, a then-enslaved Nagô woman. She becomes a petty merchant and slave owner herself and the couple later has four children: sons Damazio, Olavo, and Martinho, and daughter Benta.


An African and Muslim-led slave rebellion known as the Malê Revolt leads to a crackdown on Africans in Bahia. Ricardo survives but has to invest in slaves (instead of real estate) and put real estate in the names of his Brazilian-born children in order to skirt the prohibitions.


Records indicate Ricardo is already trading in Africa, exporting goods to the Ouidah area.


His master Manoel José Ricardo dies, manumitting Manoel Joaquim Ricardo along with fifteen other slaves.


Richardo purchases what are apparently his first two parcels of land, side by side on the outskirts of Salvador, for 195 mil-réis.


Ricardo and Rosa Maria da Conceição formalize their marriage in the Catholic Church.

June 20, 1865

Ricardo dies in Salvador, leaving behind a large estate valued at forty-two contos de réis including land, three houses, and twenty-seven slaves. He is survived by his widow and four children.