The article discusses Manuel Joaquim Ricardo’s life trajectory, an African of Hausa origin who disembarked in Bahia in the early nineteenth century as slave and died there as a rich freedman in 1865. His life in Brazil allows us to understand the possibilities and limitations to the Africans’ social mobility under slavery and in freedom. Among the mechanisms towards mobility, as was the usual thing to do then, Ricardo invested in slaves since the time when he was a slave himself, a phenomenon that is rarely covered by the historiography. He also acquired and rented real state property, negotiated with food and slaves (in both the transatlatic and internal trades) loaned money for interest, among other business activities. Other dimensions of his trajectory covered here are his family and religious life, which included his compadrio network and his dealings with candomblé people. The article sugests the concept of ladinization as a tool to understand the life experience of Africans like Ricardo, even those who did not succeed in the material world as he did.