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.
Adriana Barreto de Souza
The second law banning the African slave trade to Brazil came into force in 1850, and became known as the Eusébio de Queirós Law (de Queirós was then Minister of Justice of the Brazilian Empire). A previous attempt made in 1831 failed and the slave trade continued in the form of smuggling from that date until 1850, although until the mid-1850s there were several illegal landings and, then, traffic to the ports of the Brazil was definitely closed. There were many themes in the political debate before the African slave trade ended, from the end of the 18th century until 1850. During this period, the state, the slaveholders and their representatives in the legislative branch and in the courts of justice maintained pro-slavery arguments but changed the way they were used, under the strong British pressure to end slave trade with diplomatic and military actions since 1807. During the first half of the 19th century and, above all, after the proclamation of Brazilian Independence in 1822, the end of the slave trade became a political question in connection with other important themes regarding the formation of the Brazilian state and nation: the need of a labor force for agriculture, the fear of slave actions, national sovereignty in relation to foreign pressure, the supposed corruption of customs due to slavery, and the formation of a Brazilian people based on the work of slaves, freed people, and the poor. All of these themes would be discussed in public settings, such as Parliament, the press, and books on the defense and propaganda of slavery, for example.
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.