Brazil was the last Western country to abolish slavery, which it did in 1888. As a colonial institution, slavery was present in all regions and in almost all free and freed strata of the population. Emancipation only became an issue in the political sphere when it was raised by the imperial government in the second half of the decade of the 1860s, after the defeat of the Confederacy in the US Civil War and during the war against Paraguay. In 1871, new legislation, despite the initial opposition from slave owners and their political representatives, set up a process of gradual emancipation. By the end of the century, slavery would have disappeared, or would have become residual, without major disruptions to the economy or the land property regime. By the end of the 1870s, however, popular opposition to slavery, demanding its immediate abolition without any kind of compensation to former slave owners, grew in parliament and as a mass movement. Abolitionist organizations spread across the country during the first half of the 1880s. Stimulated by the direct actions of some of these abolitionist organizations, resistance to slavery intensified and became increasingly a struggle against slavery itself and not only for individual or collective freedom. Incapable of controlling the situation, the imperial government finally passed a law in parliament granting immediate and unconditional abolition on May 13, 1888.
The Abolition of Brazilian Slavery, 1864–1888
Africans in Brazil and Afro-Brazilian Religion and Culture
Luis Nicolau Parés
Of the estimated 4.9 million African captives disembarked in Brazil, 70 % were shipped from Central Africa, 24 % from West Africa, and the remaining 6 % from the East Coast of the continent. Despite their diverse political and cultural backgrounds, Africans were classified by slavers with a discrete number of generic categories often referred to as “nations.” The enslaved appropriation of such external labels, like Mina and Angola—distinguishing Western and Central Africans respectively—resulted in the formation of new collective identities. The novel ways of colonial belonging and behavior shaped and expressed themselves as distinct forms of Afro-Brazilian culture when organized around social institutions such as Catholic lay brotherhoods or other African-inspired associative dynamics. Religious practice, including music, language, bodily performance, cooking and dress, became a privileged domain for African cultural production, subsequently irradiating into other secular manifestations. The colonial calundu, concerned with healing and oracular functionalities, greatly influenced by the Bantu-speaking people, coexisted and intermingled with the more ecclesiastical West-African traditions of initiatory ritual dedicated to the worship of multiple deities. Despite common elements of celebration, healing and mediumship, Afro-Brazilian religious pluralism was historically marked by an extraordinary eclecticism. Different local interactions with the hegemonic Iberian Catholicism, Amerindian healing practices and French Spiritism, together with the circulation of people and ideas between Africa and Brazil after the end of the Atlantic slave trade, led to a wide range of regional variation. This heterogeneous Afro-Brazilian religious field, prone to continuous discrimination and selective tolerance by the authorities, is stressed by a discursive contrast between the alleged traditional pure African forms and the mixed syncretic Brazilian ones, all claiming their share of legitimacy and ritual efficiency.
Agricultural Transformations in Sugarcane and Labor in Brazil
Thomas D. Rogers
The Portuguese took sugarcane from their Atlantic island holdings to Brazil in the first decades of the 16th century, using their model of extensive agriculture and coerced labor to turn their new colony into the world’s largest producer of sugar. From the middle of the 17th century through the 20th century, Brazil faced increasing competition from Caribbean producers. With access to abundant land and forest resources, Brazilian producers generally pursued an extensive production model that made sugarcane’s footprint a large one. Compared to competitors elsewhere, Brazilian farmers were often late in adopting innovations (such as manuring in the 18th century, steam power in the 19th, and synthetic fertilizers in the 20th). With coffee’s growth in the center-south of the country during the middle of the 19th century, sugarcane farming shifted gradually away from enslaved African labor. Labor and production methods shifted at the end of the century with slavery’s abolition and the rise of large new mills, called usinas. The model of steam-powered production, both for railroads carrying cane and for mills grinding it, and a work force largely resident on plantations persisted into the mid-20th century. Rural worker unions were legalized in the 1960s, at the same time that sugar production increased as a result of the Cuban Revolution. A large-scale sugarcane ethanol program in the 1970s also brought upheaval, and growth, to the industry.
AIDS Crisis and Brazil
The response to the AIDS crisis in Brazil has been the focus of significant attention around the world—both as a model of social mobilization that other countries might follow and as an example of the difficulty of sustaining mobilization without necessary political support. It is possible to identify at least four reasonably distinct phases in the Brazilian response to HIV and AIDS, beginning in 1983 (when the first case of AIDS in Brazil was officially reported) and running through mid-2019. An initial phase, lasting roughly a decade, from 1983 to 1992, was marked by significant conflicts between activists from affected communities and government officials, but precisely because of the broader political context of re-democratization was also the period in which many of the key ethical and political principles were elaborated that would come to provide a foundation for the Brazilian response to the epidemic thereafter. A second phase ran from 1993 to roughly the beginning of the new millennium, when these ethical and political principles were put into practice in the construction of a full-blown and highly successful national program for the prevention and control of the epidemic. During the third phase, from 2001 to 2010, the response to the epidemic increasingly became part of Brazilian foreign policy in ways that had important impacts on the global response to the epidemic. Finally, a fourth phase, from 2011 to late 2019, has been marked by the gradual dismantling of the Brazilian response to the epidemic, at first through relatively unplanned omissions on the part of the federal government, and then through a very conscious set of policy decisions aimed at deprioritizing the strategic importance of HIV- and AIDS-related public health issues in Brazil.
Alberto Santos-Dumont and Brazilian Aviation
Felipe Fernandes Cruz
Aviation has played a unique role in the history of Brazil, beginning with the life of Alberto Santos-Dumont. Most Brazilians consider him to be the true inventor of the airplane over the North American brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright. Born in the province of Minas Gerais in 1873, he became a global celebrity in the early 1900s when he designed, built, and piloted several of his dirigibles and airplanes in Paris. He won major prizes for his aeronautical feats, such as the Deutsch de La Meurthe prize for an aerial circumnavigation of the Eiffel Tower. Santos-Dumont is a beloved national hero in Brazil. The potent symbolism of his life was often invoked in calls for the development of Brazilian aviation. Throughout the 20th century, aviation was hailed as a technological panacea for Brazil’s problems. Many Brazilians thought its development could boost homegrown industry and technology, and that aviation would in turn enable Brazil to conquer its frontiers by air. The potential to connect vast and often inaccessible territories by air was very attractive to a state with a weak grip on its frontiers. The dictatorial government of Getúlio Vargas, for instance, used propaganda and cultural programs to engender great excitement among Brazilians for the mass development of national aviation. This notion of frontier conquest by air played a major role in the development of aeronautical technology in Brazil, creating a unique history of frontier expansion and interaction with indigenous peoples. Starting in 1969, Brazil also became a major exporter of airplanes. Originally a state-owned company, the now privatized EMBRAER is one of the world’s largest aircraft manufacturers, selling military, airline and private jet aircraft around the world.
Alcohol and Drugs in Brazil
Henrique S. Carneiro
Brazilian native communities already knew various drugs, such as tobacco, ayahuasca, mate, or guaraná, but after the arrival of Portuguese colonizers, sugarcane became the main economic activity for production of sugar and brandy (cachaça), with tobacco ranking second. Ayahuasca became, in the 20th century, the sacrament of syncretic and mixed religions. Pharmaceutical regulations since the late 19th century, especially of painkillers and cocaine, as well as the prohibition of folk healers, tightened state controls that particularly stigmatized cannabis as an expression of an African heritage to be extirpated. Adherence to international treaties and the establishment of bodies that centralized drug policy, such as the National Commission for the Inspection of Narcotic Drugs (CNFE), in 1938 were accompanied by repressive legislation, with a large increase in criminal indictment and incarceration. Brazil’s 20th-century drug history, encompassing the sphere of pharmaceuticals and illicit and licit substances such as alcoholic, stimulants, and tobacco, reflects shifting socioeconomic, political, and cultural contexts.
A Likely False Travel Account to Northeastern Brazil in the 16th Century
José Alexandrino de Souza Filho
It is known that the French cosmographer André Thevet (1516–1592) used to appropriate materials produced by third parties to enrich his own writings and travel narratives. He firmly claims to have made two expeditions to Brazil, but only one of them is proven (the foundation of a French colony in Guanabara Bay, in 1555). The other expedition includes a trip to Northeastern Brazil in the text, but this claim is probably false. There is no way to positively affirm or deny the hypothesis of the two expeditions, because there is no evidence. However, the analysis of the documents of the “northeastern chapters” strongly suggests that they were written based on the portolan prepared by the French cartographer Jacques de Vau de Claye, at the request of Philippe Strozzi, within the scope of the crisis of succession to the Portuguese throne, that is, between 1578 and 1582. The motive for rewriting the same experience some thirty years later (1588), as History of the two travels made by André Thevet to the Southern and Western Indies, seems to come from the theft of a manuscript written by René de Laudonnière, chief of a French former colony in Florida, lent by Thevet himself to the English compiler Richard Hakluyt, who published it without authorization, on behalf of a French friend, Martin Basanier. Regardless of whether or not the cosmographer’s trip to Northeastern Brazil is true, one can read Thevet’s latest travel account as a kind of literary memorial of the (unsuccessful) experiences of French colonization on the American continent, whether in Canada, Florida, or Brazil.
The Alphabetic Colonization of Amerindian Oral Ecologies in Early Brazil
Diogo de Carvalho Cabral
Although it has received less scholarly attention than firearms, microbes, domestic animals and plants, market economy, and statecraft, alphabetic reading and writing was crucial in the European conquest and colonization of the Americas from the late 15th century on. Unlike the agrarian empires the Spaniards encountered in the Andes and the Mexican highlands, the Portuguese frontier advanced upon tribal peoples who relied exclusively on oral language, such as the Tupi of Atlantic Brazil. These were semi-sedentary horticultural villagers whose entire socio-ecology (myths and knowledge, territoriality, subsistence strategies, etc.) was conditioned by the face-to-faceness and fugacity of spoken words. In turn, their Portuguese colonizers—for a while rivaled by the French, who enjoyed short periods of stable settlement through the early 17th century—were urban-based, oceangoing merchants, bureaucrats, soldiers, and religious missionaries whose organization strictly depended on the durability and transferability of written texts. Even if most of the Portuguese who came to Brazil in the 16th century were themselves illiterate, colonization as a social enterprise framed their actions according to prescribed roles set down in writing (both handwriting and printed script). Thus, the Portuguese colonization of Brazilian native lands and human populations can be interpreted from the point of view of the imposition of an alphabetically organized way of life. Two major dimensions of this “letterscaping” can be discerned as to its impact on Amerindian bodies (human and nonhuman) and modes of understanding. Although the 16th century was only the introductory act in that drama, its historical record shows the basic outlines of the alphabetic colonization that would play out through the early 19th century: native decimation and enslavement, territory usurpation by sesmaria grants, forest recovery in former native croplands (then resignified as “virgin forest”), loss of native ecological knowledge not recorded in writing, disempowerment of native cultural attunement to the wild soundscape, among other processes.
While historically “Amazon” could refer to a river, a basin, and later a forest, it has been shaped into a coherent regional space by the development politics of governments, companies, and nongovernmental organizations throughout the 20th century, concealing a more complex cultural and ecological reality. Development discourses ignored the human technologies existing prior to the 16th century and drew on the imaginary of a “pristine” jungle, which actually resulted from the human depopulation that occurred in the Amazon during colonization. Colonialism (17th–19th centuries), nonetheless, connected the region to the global economy, indirectly leading to the “rubber boom” (1880–1920), when the Amazon became indispensable to the second industrial revolution. After state and business actors led different operations meant to “modernize” the region in the first half of the 20th century, “developing” the Amazon became a major target of the Brazilian government in the decades following World War II. The politics of the military regime that ruled from 1964 to 1984 in particular drove the expansion of roadways, cattle-ranching, mining, and dams. While statistically creating economic growth, this trend had disastrous consequences for nature, Indigenous livelihoods, and labor relations, which mobilized scientists, activists, and local communities against it. Yet, although by the 1990s the developmentalist model was highly contested, social and environmental movements did not manage to gather society behind a new consensus for the Amazon. Attempts to put development at the service of reducing inequalities and to reinforce environmental legislation achieved certain (mitigated) success in the early 21st century, but they did not prevent deforestation and land conflicts from trending upwards after 2015, threatening the Amazon’s very existence.
An Empire in the Tropics, 1808–1821: A Historiographical Review
Maria Fernanda Baptista Bicalho and Iara Lis Franco Schiavinatto
The Portuguese Empire in the tropics, established in Rio de Janeiro, the political center of Portuguese America between 1808 and 1821, was characterized by a government in flux, dealing with a revolutionary Atlantic, an immediate result of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic invasions. This was a period of instability and transition. Studies from the perspective of political culture analysis have demonstrated the strength of enlightened ideas, the reformist strategy of the Portuguese monarchy in the reorganization of its overseas empire, and the regimentation of Luso-Brazilian elites since the 1780s and 1790s. After 1808, the association of interests between those born in Brazil and those from Portugal benefited from King João’s policy to distribute lands, offices, privileges, and mercês (favours). The process of the interiorization of the metropole in Southern Central Portuguese America corresponded with the interests of the Luso-Brazilian elites around the city of Rio de Janeiro, who expanded their political projects toward other regions of Brazil. In Pernambuco, by contrast, the 1817 insurrection and the republican choice of its leaders explained the fracturing of the empire and monarchical authority. Revisiting debates about the empire in the tropics—including in the press that emerged following the establishment of the court of Rio de Janeiro—implies rethinking the dynamics of the reconfiguration and apprehension of the territories and their geopolitics, thinking about heterogeneous temporalities, and investigating the transit of people on a large scale across the world, the increase in black slave traffic, and forms of compulsory labor. These dynamics were the subject of innovative studies during the bicentenary of the transfer of the court, providing details of the unprecedented experience of a European king in the Americas. In 2008, many academic, cultural, and artistic events were held, and numerous books, collections, and catalogues were published, fruit of a dialogue between Brazilian and Portuguese historians. Among these were the publication of biographies, correspondence, and studies of scientists and artists who were in the court in Rio de Janeiro and who traveled through Brazil from north to south at the beginning of the 19th century. Furthermore, the project of civility in the tropics helped gestate liberal constitutional politics and a limit on the Joanino government in relation to the forms of reappropriation of the revolutionary ideal. Thus, the court in exile was an important element of the redefinition of the autonomization process in Brazil in the 1820s.
Architecture in 20th-Century Brazil
Fernando Luiz Lara
Brazilian modern architecture was widely celebrated in the 1940s and 1950s as a tropical branch of Corbusian architecture. While there is truth and depth to the influence of Le Corbusier in Brazil, the architecture of this country is much more than simply an application of his principles to a warmer climate. Moreover, Brazilian 20th-century architecture cannot be defined only by a few decades in which their buildings coincided with and reinforce northern expectations. Many contemporary authors have explored the pervasive nature of such ethnocentrism in architectural history, which denies agency and initiative to anyone outside its intellectual borders. A more adequate analysis must give proper emphasis to Brazilian architects’ motivations and agency, exploring in their main buildings how they struggled to express themselves and their societal aspirations by skillfully manipulating a formal and spatial vocabulary of international modernity. A contemporary study of Brazilian 20th-century architecture would not be worthy of its title if it did not address similar double standards that have been applied domestically. It is paramount to understand that the influence of modernism in the built environment reached way beyond the well-known centers of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, and its manifestations go way beyond the high modernism of the 1940s and 50s. The ethnocentrism of the global North Atlantic repeats itself in Brazil, with the architectures of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo overshadowing all others. If Brazilian architecture in general is not well known, notwithstanding its extraordinary achievements, still less known are the buildings erected in Recife, Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte, and Salvador, to mention only four other major urban centers, or the hundreds of buildings in medium-size cities with as much quality and intentionality as those of Rio and São Paulo.
Artistic Vanguards in Brazil, 1917–1967
The 1922 Modern Art Week is considered the initial landmark of artistic vanguards in Brazil. However, before it was held, Anita Malfatti’s 1917 exhibition, which presented expressionism to Brazilians, and the articles of Oswald de Andrade announcing in the local press the poetry of Mário de Andrade and futurism caused significant polemics and opened the way for renovation. In the middle of the 1920s, the contacts of various artists with European vanguards—especially cubism—and the reinterpretation of the national element and popular culture with the incorporation of this repertoire, with an emphasis on cosmopolitism, established and solidified modernism in various artistic areas. In the 1930s, social commitment, the revalorization of the regional, and adhesion to leftwing ideologies changed the focus of artistic production, leading to the reorganization of groups and the emergence of new protagonists: Patrícia Galvão and Flávio de Carvalho, among others. The return to classic forms and new experimentalisms marked the 1940s and 1950s, characterized by the reappearance of the sonnet, with Vinicius de Moraes, Cecília Meirelles, Murilo Mendes, and Jorge de Lima; renovations in language that reached a peak with Guimarães Rosa; photomontages by Jorge de Lima. Concrete art and poetry, notably the National Concrete Art Exhibition (1956) and neo-concretism, returning to the strategy of the manifestos and journals of the 1920s, revived the same polemical reception and bitter rivalries. In the following decade, the revisiting of Oswald de Andrade’s work, especially the idea of anthropophagy, gave a strong impulse to tropicalism, Cinema Novo, and a greater renewal in Brazilian theater, with the staging of O Rei da Vela by the Teatro Oficina group (1967), the culminating point of a fifty-year cycle of artistic vanguards in Brazil.
Artistic Vanguards in Brazil, 1952 to 1990
Kenneth David Jackson
Vanguard movements in the arts and literature from mid-20th century Brazil are termed neo-vanguard to distinguish them from the historical vanguard movements of the century’s early decades, even though the neo-vanguards share common features with them. These include an open spirit of internationalism, experimentation with form and language, and the use of fragmentation, simultaneity, minimalism, and graphic display. When they first appeared in the 1950s and 1960s, the neo-vanguards were differentiated by a rationalist, materialist, and functional approach to language, letters and art, visible in geometrical abstraction and based on research. The São Paulo poets Haroldo de Campos, Augusto de Campos, and Décio Pignatari formed the most prominent and influential literary group, known as “Poesia concreta” [Concrete Poetry]. Poesia concreta continues to shape and influence vanguard art, literature, and design in São Paulo. Their 1958 manifesto, “Plano-piloto para poesia concreta” [Pilot-Plan for Concrete Poetry], reshaped national poetics while adding an international aesthetic dimension. In Rio de Janeiro, the “Grupo Frente” led by artists Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Clark, and Lygia Pape supported the 1959 Neoconcrete movement and manifesto, defending the position that concrete poetry and art should be less mechanical and more expressive of human realities. Bossa nova introduced a syncopated, polished style that gained international fame through João Gilberto and Antônio Carlos Jobim, and it turned attention toward Brazilian arts. In the 1950s and 1960s, individual authors worked within their own neo-vanguard styles outside of any movement, the most important being João Guimarães Rosa, whose reworkings of language and orality produced the major novel of the century, Grande sertão: veredas (1956), and Clarice Lispector, creator of dense existential consciousness in prose, mainly involving women in crisis. The 1964 military coup changed the disposition of vanguard art into one of resistance, reflected in Cinema Novo, Tropicália, theater, music, popular periodicals, mass culture, and marginal literature. Popular vanguard movements effectively ended, went underground, or adopted more unconventional formats in the 1970s because of political tension. The end of an effusive period of creativity in the 1950s and 1960s was marked by the publication of the collected works of the concrete poets, their inclusion in international anthologies, and a national atmosphere of increased political repression and violence.
Atlantic Sugar Trade in 17th-century Brazil
During the first half of the 17th century, trade in Brazilian sugar was as a profitable enterprise, despite Maghrebi piracy and imperial rivalry between the Netherlands and the Iberian Crowns. Then, Brazil was the Western Hemisphere’s main producer of sugar, which attracted high prices in Europe. Trade profitability diminished in the second half of the century as competition from the Caribbean dropped prices in Europe while nominal prices in Brazil were fixed. Regulated shipping reduced price gaps further and increased transaction costs. Finally, French and English mercantilist policies closed their markets to Brazilian sugar, and credit grew increasingly risky in Brazil. To make this trade feasible and profitable, merchants developed of a wide range of maritime transportation strategies, risk mitigation methods, and payment and credit practices. The organization of shipping sought to make the most of the supply and demand along the route and reduce transportation costs with idle cargo space. By mixing more expensive goods along with cheaper products, merchants tried to keep many vessels sailing between those ports to increase the flow of information, to profit from arbitrage, and to spread the risk. Being a semi-luxury item, the value sugar in absolute terms afforded insurance premiums more than the products with lower value per volume traditionally traded by the Dutch. Yet the value of sugar was not as high as Asian spices or Spanish American bullion, therefore, the costs of concentrating shipping in convoys protected by well-armed vessels was burdensome to the sugar trade. Attempts to coerce sailing in convoys and establish monopolies on certain exports (and imports) to Brazil by the Dutch and the Portuguese found fierce opposition among most traders, particularly modest ones. Being quite fungible, easily priced, and widely traded, sugar roughly fit the modern concept of a commodity. As such, it was convenient means of payment and also functioned as commodity money in Brazil, where it was the main merchandise sourced in the colony. As planters grew increasingly indebted, they secured various legal hindrances to their properties’ foreclosure and compulsory acceptance of sugar as payment at officially tariffed prices unless otherwise stipulated, which increased merchants’ credit risk while reducing their gains.
Authoritarian Urbanism in the Era of Mass Eradication in Rio de Janeiro, 1960s–1970s
As the number of favelas and poor residents of Rio de Janeiro grew quickly by the mid-20th century, they became the object of policymaking, social science research, real estate speculation, and grassroots mobilization. After a decade in which local authorities recognized the de facto presence of favelas but without legally ascertaining the right of permanence, the 1960s and early 1970s witnessed the era of mass eradication. Seemingly contradictory—but complementary—policies also included the development of massive low-income housing complexes and innovative community development and favela urbanization experiences empowered by community organizations with the assistance of experts committed to improving the lives of poor Cariocas (residents of Rio). Favelas in Rio were at the crossroads of a particular interplay of forces: the urgent need to modernize Rio’s obsolete and inadequate urban infrastructure; the new administrative status of the city after the inauguration of Brasilia; and the redefinition of the balance of power between local, municipal, and federal forces in a time of radical politics and authoritarian and technocratic military regimes, Cold War diplomacy, and the transnational flows of expertise and capital.
The Balaiada War, 1838–1841
Adriana Barreto de Souza
Between 1831 and 1840, the Brazilian Empire was ruled by regents. Pedro I, who became Brazil’s first emperor in 1822 on the occasion of the country’s independence, was forced by a popular political movement to abdicate his throne on April 7, 1831. This episode set off a series of revolts that involved broad segments of society: slaves, Indians, the urban and rural poor, liberal professionals, and large and small landholders. Not all of the revolts, however, counted such diverse social groups among their ranks, and fewer still included common people in leadership roles. The Balaiada War, or simply the Balaiada, waged in the provinces of Maranhão and Piauí, was one such revolt. Albeit in different phases, this multifaceted movement drew in landholders, slaves, and quilombolas (members of a community formed by escaped African slaves and their descendants, usually in inaccessible regions of the forest or backlands), and was led by caboclos (a term used in northern Brazil to refer to those who work the fields and forests) and a black leader who headed an army of more than 3,000 quilombolas. These men fought their freedom and civil rights, values widely invoked by the literate elite since the time of Brazil’s independence. The successful repression (“pacification”) of this movement, beginning in 1840, employed two strategies: by sowing intrigue, it sought to relegate each group to its original place in society and reconstruct social hierarchies; and at a symbolic level, it sought to disparage the war and its leaders, portraying the movement in historical accounts as one of vicious and bloodthirsty barbarians.
Beyond Slavery: Abolition and Post-abolition in Brazil
Hebe Mattos and Wlamyra Albuquerque
What happened after slavery in the first slave society of the Americas? How did the abolition process shape post-abolition Brazilian society? On September 28, 1871 the Lei do Ventre Livre (Free Womb Law) signaled the end for slavery in Brazil. It created, for the effects of the compensation of slave owners, a general registration of the last slaves, which shows that Brazil officially recognized around a million and a half of them in 1872. How did these last enslaved workers live and politically influence the legal process that resulted in their freedom? Certainly they did so, since between flights, negotiations, and conflicts, the number of slaves fell by half over the following years. In this process, conditional manumission letters became almost like labor contracts, the results of negotiations between slaves and slave owners which gave expectations of freedom to some and prolonged the exploitation of the labor of others. In 1887, abolition seemed inescapable. En masse flights of the last slaves made it a fact, recognized by law on May 13, 1888. How could social relations be reinvented after the collapse of the institution which had structured the country, in all its aspects, since colonization? This dismantling would have consequences that were not only economic but would also redesign the logic of power and the architecture of a society willing to maintain distinct types of citizenship. Old experiences of racism and citizenship were redefined in the process. Former slave owners fought for compensation for their lost property until Rui Barbosa, an old abolitionist and minister of finance of the first republican government, decided to burn the registration documentation in 1889, thereby preventing any compensation proposal for around seven hundred thirty thousand slaves freed by the abolition law. With the Republic (1889), a new racialized rhetoric narrated abolition as the product of the republican action of the “emancipating race,” which guaranteed freedom without conflict to the “emancipated race.” It thus made invisible not only the fundamental action of the last slaves, but also the demographically majoritarian status of the free Afro-descendants in the Brazilian population, evident in the action of numerous black abolitionists. For Afro-Brazilians, the struggle remained to define their place and rights in society. More recently, the political action of the Brazilian black movement in the commemorations of the centenary of abolition (1988) established the idea of incomplete abolition, defining May 13 as the date of the struggle against racial inequality in the country and consolidating the post-abolition period as a field of historiographic research.
Black Associational Politics in 20th-Century Brazil
The population of African descent in Brazil has always maintained vibrant associative communities, whether in the form of mutual aid societies, confraternities, and religious brotherhoods that existed since the time of slavery or in the form of other voluntary associations that appeared later, such as recreational societies, civic centers, literary guilds, musical groups, carnival blocos, and the black press. For Afro-Brazilians, the associative experience throughout the 20th century contributed to a sense of group belonging and a consciousness of a shared identity and experience of racial discrimination. Furthermore, these relationships enabled Afro-Brazilians to begin claiming rights as citizens, protesting against what afflicted them as a community. These joint efforts fueled collective acts of resistance and self-determination that, while evident for centuries, acquired new meanings and manifestations following the abolition of slavery in 1888. Black associations did not limit themselves to denouncing problems or detecting their causes and consequences. They tried to point out ways to overcome them by proposing several solutions: the moral elevation of Afro-Brazilians, which implied a preoccupation with their image in the various sectors where they acted; improving their educational and instructional level; valorizing their race and, by extension, black identity; and emphasizing the need to react to injustices, and even to act politically. However, the main solution was the union of black Brazilians, a sine qua non for this segment of the population to strengthen and thus be able to claim and gain space in society, improve living conditions, and even overcome persistent challenges. Understanding the history of black associative life in Brazil during the 20th century is necessary in order to grasp the struggles and challenges Afro-Brazilians have faced around common interests, particularly since these collective actions are an integral part of the black experience and, in some respects, overlap with it.
Black Brotherhoods in the Portuguese Atlantic
Alicia L. Monroe
Lay Catholic brotherhoods constituted important religious, social, and civic associations among African-origin and African-descended people in Portugal, West Central Africa, and Portuguese America in the early modern period (1450–1850). Lay Catholic brotherhoods (irmandades), also known as confraternities (confrarias) and sodalities, functioned as spaces of devotion oriented around one or more patron saints. In the Portuguese Atlantic world, free and enslaved people of African origin and descent utilized the associations to prioritize collective devotion, mutual aid, and burial rites for members. Mutual aid could include small payments during illness, assistance with manumission process completion, and internment of deceased members under the auspices of the sodality. Lay Catholic brotherhoods functioned as critical sites of transculturation and belonging for people of African origin and descent in the 1490s in Portugal, by the early 1500s in areas of West Central Africa with an entrenched Portuguese presence, and in Brazil beginning in the colonial period (1500–1822). Confraternities became a common facet of lived experience and religiosity for African and African-descended Catholic devotees across the Portuguese-speaking Atlantic world. Associations were governed by organizational charters generated by founding or elected directorate members that required approval from Catholic Church leaders, the Crown, and provincial-level state authorities. Confraternities had juridical personality and recognition from ecclesial and state officials as semi-autonomous entities or corporate bodies. Members could exercise and experience limited levels of autonomy, even in slave-holding colonial environments. Within brotherhoods in Portugal and in its overseas imperial territories, ethnic and racial stratification was predominant, but not absolute. Confraternities acted as institutional sites where West, West Central, and Southeastern African ethnic group identities held importance and deep social meaning across several centuries. Confraternity participants engaged baroque Catholicism, which emphasized collective action including celebration of the saints and related rites relying on music, movement, and festivities. Brotherhoods functioned as critical sites of proselytization, but also came to serve as spaces for local member imperatives that incorporated African cultural expression, esthetics, and worldviews.
Affection and Solidarity among 19th-Century Black Intellectuals in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo
Ana Flávia Magalhães Pinto
Brazil had the largest population of free and freed Black people on the continent, starting in the early 19th century, despite being the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery. The 1872 General Census of the Empire reported that six out of every ten Black or brown people could claim a series of rights associated with citizenship by virtue of not being enslaved. These included some individuals who were literate and active in the cultural and political spaces in which plans for the country’s present and future were drawn up. Especially in the second half of the 19th century, a time of deepening crisis for the slaveholding system, individuals such as José Ferreira de Menezes, Luiz Gama, Machado de Assis, José do Patrocínio, Ignácio de Araújo Lima, Arthur Carlos, and Theophilo Dias de Castro, all of whom were born free and resided in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, invested in their individual aspirations but also joined groups that defended the citizenship rights of free, freed, and enslaved Black people. Facing daily experiences of “color prejudice,” they not only participated in debates waged in the abolitionist, Black, literary, and general press, but they also played leading roles in the creation of mechanisms and instruments of resistance, confrontation, and dialogue. Although this aspect has not received much attention in recent historical accounts that recognize their existences, these and other Black intellectuals developed bonds of affection and solidarity over the course of their careers. To reflect on the scope of this shared racial identity in the latter 19th century and the possible impact of these ties on public positions taken by Black intellectuals, the demonstrations of friendship and companionship experienced by these individuals are traced, as well as by some others. An exercise in approaching the traces of different practices surrounding the politicization of race is given, and paths for future research on the social history of ideas and antiracism in Brazil are suggested.