the african american study

The bulk of the history of the slavery movement is in the context of a trajectory model of explanation of the struggles from slavery to independence. Brazil has a rich past that offers insights into the bleak depictions of slavery, but this has been significantly limited due to language barriers because even though the subject of Brazilian slavery history has been studied, not much has been thoroughly covered. Brazil, in turn, was one of the last countries to accept black slaves and end slavery later that year, in May 1888. Slavery was widely used as a key weapon by the Portuguese to advance imperialism throughout the Atlantic continent. The first colonial groups landed in Brazil in the early 1500 but however it took them more than half a century to establish an economy as their other dominions in Asia and Africa tended to bring larger profits in comparison to Brazil hence had more attention (Carolyn, pg. 3-5).

In 1530s the Portuguese realized that Brazil had the resource of under-utilized land a commodity that they lacked back at home hence started establishing plantations that extensively grew sugar canes and extended to construction of mills that could be used in the processing of the canes and this quickly turned to require vast amounts of service labor to be used in the clearance of land and its cultivation. The first point of consideration for slaves was drawn from the native populations that were the original occupants of Brazil. In the long run these proved to be impractical as the native populations were susceptible to epidemic diseases that had been brought from Europe. In addition to this the native tribes did not practice agricultural work and the duties of subsistence labor were primarily delegated to the women as they men took on warrior roles. Besides this proved to be challenging in the long run the warriors revolted and attacked the European plantations (Degler).

The Portuguese required alternative sources of labor and the best alternatives were in Africa to replace the weak Indians. Over the centuries the Portuguese went ahead to exploit different parts of Africa starting with Angola and extending to Nigeria and neighboring countries. This unlimited supply of cheap labor led to the rising of the sugar plantations prominence especially during the early years of colonies. Amongst the factors that advanced the slave trade was sugar production, a commodity that was highly treasured. In the course of the slavery trade Brazil received over four million Africa slaves which was more than four times as much as the number of slaves transported to American destinations. These is the reason why there is a huge populace of the African descended population in Brazil than even some other African countries. However as the sugar trade began diminishing the slaves started to be distributed to other parts of Brazil to serve in gold mines to serve their masters on the parts of Minas Gerais and this led to an increase in the slave demand in mining the treasured commodity. Of the total 1.7 illion slaves thyat were imported averagely during the periods of 17th and 18th centuries over one million of the slaves were sold to work in diamond and gold mines. Later in the early 1830s there was a renewed demand of the slaves as the slave owners ventured to coffee plantation farming. The slaves were also sent to the major towns or cities in Brazil and by the late 18th century over half of the households in Salvador, Sao Paulo and Ouro Preto owned slaves within their households. The Portuguese were very reluctant to adopt any industrialization techniques (Carolyn, pg. 3-5).

The masters were very few whereas the population of the African slaves continued to grow.

In the wake of slavery revolts in the history Africans slaves in Brazil, the slaves were considered as property of the slave owners where the system allowed for the slave owners to sell or even kill their slaves without any action being taken against them. The slave’s population in Brazil barely remained the same despite the number of importation of slaves as the live span of the new arrival slaves was averaged to 6-7 years whereas the children born in slavery managed to live to the expectancy of 20 years. Portugal had little control over the actions of the immigrants and settlers who were acting in Brazil mainly due to distance and lack of governance institutions hence making it a world that lacked any social restrains.

During the period of history there were various forms of resistance of the Africans to slavery and this was boosted by their population as they outnumbered the settlers by the ratio of two to one. Even in the early days of African slavery in Brazil resistance remained to be the main feature. These acts of resistance took diversified forms to sabotage slavery activities i.e. poor work quality, committing of serious felonies like arson or poisoning slave owners, feigning illness or in extreme conditions attempting run away. This resulted in the formation of fugitive slaves groups that were known as palmeras and they were mainly formed in locations that were inaccessible to the slave owner militia troops. The fact that the salves outnumbered the whites led to an increase in the forms of resistance including plots, conspiracies and actual uprisings that resulted in civil wars. These events eventually led to an uprising of violence based revolts that even exceeded the calamities caused by rebelling slaves in farms (Philip, pg. 358). Unlike in the USA, the Portuguese did not have effectively policed slavery to take care of slavery. Major plots for revolts took place in plantations and palmeras. However many researches into the slavery fail to address the importance of the Haitian Revolution as it is a very unique event during slavery. Many revolts by the African slaves were undocumented since they never materialized into full revolutions however they still represented one of the modes through which the slaves expressed their resistance to slavery. The suppression of rebellions over the years led to the formation of Palmares. There were negotiations between the provincial and local authorities on the raising of money to finance troops that could oversee to resolving issues of oppositions and revolts. This efforts managed to derail planned acts of rebellions among the African slaves. In 1970s Joao Jose Reis began research that focused on the documentation of all the revolts that had occurred in the province of Bahia with the biggest of them being the “Revolt if the Males” that took place in Salvador.

The Palmares enigma

This is among the most recognized forms of resistance that were experienced in Brazil and showed great success in the build-up of confidence of people to stand up and fight for their freedom. The Palmeras communities were formed by fugitive slaves who had ran away from their master owners and comparing the number of slaves they were absorbing its quite hard to estimate their average population with some researchers estimating a range of as low as 6000 inhabitants to 30000. Although the formation of Palmares dates to the start of the 17th century, the growth increased when the slaves took advantage of the military chaos to escape to south of the captaincy. The authorities regarded the creoles, Africans and their descendants who lived in the Palmares as the “colored Dutch”. The formed militia by slave owners that was aimed at dispersing the forming communities did not succeed and hence the slave owners and the authorities were force to recognize the liberties of the Palmares groups. Historians attribute the enigma depending on the change in the Portuguese laws on slavery that saw that the run-away slaves being tracked by the slave hunter militia in various regions. However this efforts were hampered since the run-away slaves opted to move to the caves in inaccessible parts of the mountains and the militia didn’t bother to go looking to these extreme locations. The idea of run-away slaves was fueled by the high levels of absence of masters and this system was best fitted for systems that supported the production of a single product and the slaves desire to run was caused by the social unbalances between the slaves and the whites. Such a system was attempted in the United States but in the end the run-away slaves were caught and returned to their masters. This was mainly because the whites outnumbered the African American slaves. In the end the Palmeras even formed their own hierarchy of leadership that was meant to represent their interests but were later defeated and the chances of slavery revolts success fell hugely (Reis).

The slaves at the same time used other measures that depicted their resistance to slavery. Before the abolition of slavery, the slaves could adopt different strategies of resisting slavery like running away, rebelling from their slave holders, or other smaller acts of resistance like the slowing down of performance in work areas. The rebellions of running away and creating of Palmares led to formation of run-away slave communities that held up to 20,000 people. Slave trade was abolished in Brazil mainly due to the pressure from international communities like Britain in 1850 mainly by intercepting the slave ships that were destined for Brazil and freeing of the enslaved Africans and this forced the closure of the trade. The support for abolition movements on slave gained popularity in the 1860s and Brazil eventually started experiencing labor shortages mainly because the sustainability of slavery had been based on importing of new slaves instead of allowing for reproduction of slaves. This system ended up affecting them as they preferred to import the males that made it possible for the revolts and rebellions to be so powerful.

Today the African heritage introduced due to the assimilations of African slaves is strongly evident in Brazil. The Brazilians have accepted and integrated the culture and believes of the Yoruba and other African groups especially through its impact in the religion of Brazilians, their dance and music have deep roots from Africa. As much as a majority of the Brazilian population practices Catholicism, there is an equally substantial populace that worships the Oxisa Yemanji – the water goddess – in the first of January every year (Rodriguez, pg. 27-34).


It is clearly evident that the slave revolts and rebellions were larger in Brazil when compared to United States and this can be hugely attributed to factors like the difference in historical circumstances like economy, geography, demography and the social attitudes shown towards the African slaves. Unlike in Frank Tannenbaum’s claims of the main causes behind the revolts in Brazil being influenced by factors like the church practice and the differences in laws. For example the American slave owners declined to import slaves from the Kingdom of Gabon as they were considered to be rebellious in nature. Besides the slaves from the same communities or rather ethnic groups were separated for different destinations to slow down conspiracies and plots. However such policies were not implemented by the Brazilian/ Portuguese slave owners who imported all slaves regardless of their ethnic background.

Another primary cause of increased rebellions was the mode of increasing slaves used in Brazil that focused in entirely men as they were not interested in raising families thereby had to import slaves up to as late as the 1880s to maintain their labor demands and slave populace. The introduction of new slaves presented rebellious problems as the new imported African slaves were hostile and resentful to the new environment unlike in United States where the slaves stayed and got used to their new environments eventually. Since a majority of the African slaves originated from the same ethnic backgrounds the organizing of revolts was much easier to plan and execute in secrecy. The revolts experienced in Brazil during the 1813- that involved over 600 slaves actively taking part, 1830 and 1835- over 281 slaves too part in the activities of the revolt held this year and hence this activities were incomparable to United States in terms of size and intensity scales (Carolyn, pg. 3-5).

In the revolt carried out in 1809 in Bahia there had been a collaboration between the Hauses and the Yoruba who planned and organized the revolts. The documents gathered from rebels were written in Arabic script once again emphasizing on the role of same ethnic backgrounds in the organizing of African slavery revolutions. Most of the slave rebels were Muslims and used this as an element of indispensability. Most of the slaves in Brazil were from Africa and had memories of their African pasts and the desire to go back unlike in the cases of United States where most slaves were native born creoles who virtually lacked a culture and had been raised in the ways of the slavery system. For this reasons this slaves had no strong traditions of rebellion or resistance. The mounting of revolts greatly depended on the free spirited nature of Africans slaves who had been born free to fuel their desire for freedom.

However the main point of review is that the various forms of resistance used by different groups helped in advancing the fight of African slaves to freedom and fair treatment which they eventually won when slavery was abolished in Brazil in May 1888. The role played by the Africans in shaping of the cultures in Brazil is evident today as the African heritage introduced due to the assimilations of African slaves is strongly evident in Brazil.

Works Cited

Carolyn Morrow Long, Spiritual Merchants: Religion, Magic and Commerce (The University of Tennessee Press, 2000), 3-4.

Degler, Carl N. Neither black nor white: Slavery and race relations in Brazil and the United States. Unitv of Wisconsin Press, 1971.

Philip Curtin., The Transatlantic slave trade: A Census (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1968).

Reis, João José. Slave rebellion in Brazil: the Muslim uprising of 1835 in Bahia. Taylor & Francis, 1995.

Rodriguez, Junius P., ed. Encyclopedia of slave resistance and rebellion. Vol. 2. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007.

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