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Slave Revolts  

Ricardo Figueiredo Pirola

Brazil received the largest number of enslaved Africans in the countries in the Americas. Of the 12.5 million men and women taken captive in Africa, about 5.5 million (44 percent) were sent to Brazil, which became one of the main slaveholding areas in the world. The enslavement of Africans and their descendants persisted in that country for more than three centuries and permeated all aspects of life. There was no work in which slave labor was not used, whether in the fields or in towns and cities throughout Brazil’s vast territory. The wealth produced by the exploitation of sugar cane, coffee, and the extraction of gold and diamonds relied primarily on the work of enslaved Africans. Brazil was built on the backs of Blacks. If the work of enslaved Africans and their descendants marked the building of wealth in that country, the struggles they waged over the centuries were also part of Brazilian history. The enslaved resisted the world conceived by their masters in many ways: by sabotaging the production of goods, slowing the pace of work, escaping, forming quilombos (maroon communities), killing masters and overseers, and planning slave revolts. These various forms of resistance coexisted during over three centuries of slavery in Brazil, but above all in the 19th century, when most of the collective slave revolts occurred. This does not mean that there were no uprisings before that time, but the accelerated arrival of Africans in the 19th century and the dissemination of several revolutionary ideologies (such as Islamism and the ideas of equality and freedom arising from the Enlightenment) created a favorable context for the outbreak of mass revolts. It was in the 1800s, specifically in 1835, that Brazil witnessed the largest urban uprising of enslaved individuals in the Americas when the Revolt of the Malês erupted in the streets of Salvador, Bahia.

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Indigenous Peoples and the Portuguese Crown in the 17th and 18th Centuries  

Patricia Alves-Melo

The native populations of Portuguese America were essential for the implementation of the Portuguese colonial project. Their labor was indispensable in constructing the colony, and political alliances with native peoples ensured the success of the conquest at several crucial moments, and only with the aid of native knowledge it was possible to occupy the land and advance the conquest of the immense territory that became known as Brazil. In this sense, peace was a necessity. Yet, in highlighting the centrality of Indians in the settlement of the Portuguese colony in the Americas, it must also be recognized that the relations established there between Portuguese conquerors and native populations were also historically marked by tension and violence. A war of extermination, often masquerading as a “just war,” and slavery became inseparable parts of colonial strategy. Moreover, access to land and the use of indigenous labor could both constitute secure indicators of success in the conquest of Portuguese America. In the process of colonization the Portuguese Crown was confronted by various forms of native resistance and by the differing interests of diverse colonial agents. During the 17th and 18th centuries the Crown faced tensions, disputes, and contradictions in relation to the slavery and freedom of Indians and the way it solved these conflicts revealed the configuration of its indigenist policy.