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date: 15 January 2021

Beyond Slavery: Abolition and Post-abolition in Brazilfree

  • Hebe MattosHebe MattosDepartment of History, Universidade Federal Fluminense
  •  and Wlamyra AlbuquerqueWlamyra AlbuquerqueFederal University of Bahia


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.

The Last Slaves

After the interruption of the Atlantic slave trade to Brazil, following the passing of a second law repressing contraband on September 4, 1850, the future of slavery as an institution in Brazil was still open. Immediately after the suppression of the Atlantic trade, slaveholding institutions were strengthened and internal traffic increased, making the freedom of the free people of African descent and the lives of mostly illegally enslaved people even more precarious. At the same time, in most public documentation there came to prevail a policy of racial silence in relation to the free people of African descent in situations of social respectability, while slave owning tended to be concentrated in the hands of the largest slave owners, breaking the complicity of the majority of the free population, including slave owners of African descent, with the institution.1

The historiography has signaled the existence of a crisis of legitimacy of slavery and the formation of a public opinion favorable to the “cause of slaves” in Brazil as far back as the 1860s. Agitation on the streets, slave insubordination, reformist projects on the part of the political elite, disputes between the Liberal and Conservative parties, as well as the defeat of the South in the US civil war (1861–1865) constituted the political environment for the discussion of emancipationist projects.2 The prolonged and bloody war against Paraguay (1864–1870) compulsorily freed enslaved men and made them citizens and soldiers to defend the country, making the question even more delicate. Many of them had the expectation, almost always frustrated, of purchasing the manumission of relatives with the wages promised to them during the war. The frustration of the plans for freedom of these “national heroes” gained space in the emancipationist press.

In parliamentary debates, in the field of law, and in the movement in the streets, the forms and timing of resolving the “servile question” were disputed. The Imperial State oscillated between the interests of the slaveholding elites and the urgency of the reformist agenda. In addition, the international scenario required calculation. The abolition of serfdom in Russia, the US civil war, and the shocks to slavery in Cuba impacted the reformist thought of the Brazilian political elites in the 1860s and 1870s.3 Deputy Zacarias de Góes stated in 1871 that a war to force Brazil to adopt an emancipationist policy would not be necessary, “the laughter of the world was enough, the scorn of all nations was enough, pointing to Brazil as a country friendly to slavery, willing to keep it so indefinitely.”4

Nevertheless, there was much resistance on the part of slaveholders, both from sugar- growing and coffee plantation regions, who organized themselves into “farming clubs” to pressure the parliament against the proposal presented by the throne to approve a law to free the womb of women slaves. After bitter debates in parliament and in the press, the Law of September 28, 1871 gave freedom to the children of slave mothers born after that date, imposing a strong parliamentary defeat on slaveholding interests.

Under the new law, all those born in Brazil legally became Brazilian citizens, even though there were discussions if they should be considered ingênuos (free born) or libertos (freed—which would restrict for a generation their political rights). The announced transformation was not small. For the first time a horizon was defined for the end of slavery in the country.

Despite this, the political defeat of the landholders was rapidly given a new significance. The civil condition of newborns was not clearly established; the text of the law simply declared them “free,” but obliged to work until the age of 21 in order to compensate the owners of their mother or the state. The majority of slave owners preferred to keep them under their guardianship, enjoying their labor rather than handing them over to the state at the age of eight, even with a guarantee of compensation. Although they were called ingênuos in the documentation that emerged, the word was transformed into a mark of compulsory labor. The “services of the ingênuos in the Law of 28 September” could be priced to be transferred to another slave owner or legated as inheritance; nor would the authorities ever enforce the legal obligation to educate them.

Another novelty stipulated in law was the creation of the general register of slaves, which allows one to know that Brazil “legally” recognized around a million and a half slaves in 1872, of whom half were either Africans smuggled in after 1831 or their direct descendants. Law cases aimed at proving the freedom of illegally enslaved Africans after 1831 became the political focus of the abolitionist cause in the courts. However, with the obligation to register slaves, slave owners had to present proof that someone was their slave. Until then, the free or freed individual of “color” needed to be socially recognized as such, which undermined their freedom and limited their right to come and go, as well as their immediate protection networks, especially in areas where interprovincial traffic was more intense. In response, the slaveholding class made notable efforts to enforce what Sidney Chalhoub called the “policy of production of dependents.”5 For example, the prerogative of the slave owner to give freed slaves a manumission letter (carta de alforria) was preserved, even for those who received their freedom from the emancipation fund created by the Law of 28 September or in a judicial dispute, the symbolic reinforcement of the structuring hierarchies of slavery.6

The officialization of other customary practices, such as the accumulation of savings for the purchase of freedom by slaves themselves and the priority of slave families on the classification lists of the emancipation fund, expanded the possibilities of manumission and showed the extent to which profound changes were underway. Registrations of manumission increased due both to judicial means, the so-called freedom legal cases, and to domestic negotiations between slave owners and slaves. In the province of Rio Grande do Sul, whose principal economic activity was cattle raising, between 1873 and 1887 there was a 58.8 percent increase in manumission; of these, 66.5 percent were dependent on the provision of services for a certain period or the payment of the corresponding value.7 The provision of services as a condition for the acquisition of manumission letters in general was the result of negotiations between slaves and owners, which put liberty on the horizon for some and prolonged the exploitation of labor for others.

This was a mechanism particular to the slaveholding order in Brazil, even more frequent in the slaveholding crisis, which projected the power of command of slaveholders “beyond captivity.”8 In analyzing the patterns of manumission in the city of Campinas, Peter Eisenberg concluded that manumission dependent on the provision of services could be seen as labor contracts.9 From the perspective of the state, this was a means of making a period of apprenticeship possible, tutelary freedom, an artifice seen in other countries also involved in bringing an end to slavery, such as Cuba.10 In the view of the slaveholding class, it guaranteed some compensation and the loyalty of the worker recently freed from slavery. However, this arrangement did not always work.

Police and judicial documentation are full of stories of those freed who did not accept this logic of subordination. In the 1870s and 1880s, the tension between the limits and aspirations of this conditional freedom filled the newspapers and the desks of judges with denunciations of freed slaves who reacted on being treated as if they were slaves, or of slave owners who complained that contracts were not being honored. In this litigation, more that the resolution of the dispute, magistrates had to decide how much autonomy was included in the letter of freedom while slavery as an institution declined. In the 1885 law, which guaranteed manumission for those in their sixties, the prolonging of connections between freed slaves and slave owners was included. Those freed under law had to serve their owners for another three years and were obliged to remain for at least five years in the municipality where they lived, under the penalty of being considered vagabonds. It was the state reaffirming that manumission did not signify full citizenship, even for those who had worked all their lives in the fields and were over sixty or had their age artificially increased to hide their illegal enslavement.

However, it was the slaves who were still young, especially the urban ones, who were most attentive to the ongoing changes. In the province of São Paulo in which 107,329 slaves were registered in 1886, around 95 percent of this labor was used in the coffee plantations.11 In the capital of the province, there predominated slaves coming from the north in interprovincial traffic to be occupied in domestic tasks or as slaves for hire. Abolitionist propaganda, the breaking of family ties, and the heterogeneous masses of workers formed by freed slaves, freeborn blacks, and immigrants in the city encouraged their rebellion. In this scenario, the action of the black abolitionist Luiz Gama, a public employee, lawyer, and journalist, was decisive. He centered himself on an argument which, since it did not deny the inviolable right to property, was very efficient: he simply noted that Africans and their descendants who had been trafficked after 1831 were illegally enslaved.12 The king was naked. The action of announcing in courts the generalized illegality known by all—and silenced—added to the agency of slaves and the embarrassing isolation of Brazil in the defense of slavery, which promised to bring down that secular order.

The Last Abolition

In 1884, a strike by workers in the port of Fortaleza, in the northern province of Ceará, was decisive in interrupting the interprovincial traffic that supplied the southern provinces with slave labor. By preventing slaves from being embarked, abolitionists broke the economic flow that sustained interprovincial traffic. The fall in the price of slaves and a vigorous campaign for the purchase of the manumission of the last slaves in the province led abolitionist propaganda to proclaim the “abolition of slavery in Ceará” on March 25, 1884. Although there was exaggeration in this statement, antislavery enthusiasm coming from the north reverberated in the press throughout the country, which celebrated the pioneering role of Ceará and encouraged the politicians of the Liberal Party.13 In 1887, Conselheiro Dantas, a liberal leader and abolitionist, presented in the senate a bill to declare abolition on December 31, 1889, the year of the centenary of the rights of man.14 According to the bill’s signatories, it was an opportunity for Brazil to demonstrate that it shared the values of civilized nations. Although it was defeated, abolition was becoming unavoidable. In the same year, the collective flights of slaves from the interior of the province of São Paulo increased. Those who fled went toward Santos or Cubatão, where new marron communities were formed.15 According to contemporaries, there was a huge exodus in the economic center of the country. Crimes of slaves who justified their acts due to mistreatment or who refused to be traded in interprovincial traffic occupied the pages of the daily newspapers, leaving slaveholders even more insecure.16 In cities such as Recife, freed and slave street sellers challenged the police in public squares, cheering for freedom in a public square and demanding to be recognized as honorable women and workers.17

The conservative cabinet, commanded by the Baron of Cotegipe, tried to unentangle itself from the opposition of the liberals, while the abolitionist press tirelessly attributed slavery to national backwardness. Meanwhile, abolitionist meetings were prohibited in cities with large concentrations of slaves and freed people, such as Rio de Janeiro and Salvador. The official justification for the prohibitions was the prevention of conflict, but the efforts of the authorities to disallow the use of the word “freedom” by “people of color,” whether slaves or free, was flagrant. The worsening of the social crisis and the frequent disagreements with Princess Isabel led Baron of Cotegipe to resign in March 1888.

The social order continued to be impacted by the legal guidelines and by the mobilization of anti-slavery public opinion.18 The words “abolition” and “freedom” emerged as synonyms in the popular vocabulary. With the removal of the intransigent Baron of Cotegipe, the cabinet of João Alfredo, also formed by adversaries of immediate abolition, took office. In January 1888, João Alfredo thought that slavery could last more than five years, which would be followed by a three-year apprenticeship period, “at a modest salary.”19 His proposals were at the limit of what the Conservative Party wanted for the resolution of the question. By maintaining the leadership of the assembly in the hands of the conservatives, the regent tried to demonstrate that she had control over the situation. She did not.

To contain the flights, the plantation owners enacted collective manumission, though now without payment in money or the provision of services. The strategy was to ensure the permanence of former slaves on their properties, using the paternalistic logic which foresaw the gratitude and obedience of subordinates to their generous masters. A political culture was drawn upon that had for centuries demarcated the frontier between slavery and freedom through manumission. It was the last card of the slave owners. Public events for granting “letters of freedom” were reported by the press, which associated black freedom with a white gift but also amplified the signs of the bankruptcy of slavery.20 José do Patrocínio, a black abolitionist leader, enthusiastically stated in A Cidade do Rio that “we [are] in the dawn. [. . .] The Modern History of Brazil will begin and the sad history of the barbarous times of our land will come to an end.”21

Slavery was literally in its last days. Although the marks of slavery would not be removed from the social fabric, the ongoing changes were not insignificant. In the Speech from the Throne read on the opening of the parliamentary session on May 8, 1888, it was admitted that the “extinction of the servile element” was an “aspiration acclaimed by all classes,” and it was thus urgent to erase from the “law of the country the only exception which appeared in it in antagonism with the liberal and Christian spirit of institutions.”22 The multitude, which followed the debate, commemorated. At the end of the session, João Alfredo was caught by Jose do Patrocínio escaping from the celebrating crowd.23 It weighed on the only monarchy in the Americas to also be the only slaveholding country. João Alfredo found himself compelled to allow the law to pass on May 13, 1888. That great victory was much commemorated.24

From north to south in Brazil, there were around seven hundred thirty thousand enslaved people in 1888.25 Although the precise details about their occupations are not known, it can be inferred that a large part of this labor was used in the production of coffee, sugar, and tobacco, in livestock raising, in urban commerce, and in domestic work. Despite the signs of the bankruptcy of slavery, abolition provoked “a feeling of surprise and unpredictability,” especially in agricultural areas little prepared for the change.26 Pernambuco, the leader of sugar production, rapidly lost its slave population: in 1884, there were 72,709 slaves but only 41,122 in 1887. Even though they were declining, these numbers were not insignificant for agricultural labor.27 With the slaves concentrated in the sugar mills, the focus of the most fervent anti-abolitionism, the question went beyond the census data.

It was no longer fragments of the slave population—children, slaves with savings, families, and old people—who had freedom on the horizon. Rather, the institution that had structured the country in all of its aspects since the remote times of colonization was bankrupt. This dismantling did not only have economic implications but it designed the logic of power and the architecture of a society willing to maintain distinct types of citizenship. For this reason, the date of May 13 marked the last abolition in the Americas but was yet another chapter in the conflicts fought over black freedom in modernity.

Unfinished Abolition

While abolition was being celebrated, news about conflicts generated by it circulated telegraphically. Police chiefs and provincial authorities, in reserved correspondence, asked for reinforcements and ordered their subordinates to act to dampen spirits. However, the violence of the slaveholding order spilled over to the “dawn of liberty.” From the Recôncavo baiano, the nerve center of the Conservative Party, unhappy slave owners arrested and whipped freedmen who refused to obey them; others, since they could not stand a world without slaves, committed suicide. Police correspondence also provided information about the rebellion of former slaves who demanded land and cattle, burned plantations, and confronted former overseers.28 Although these conflicts had a local dimension, they show how much the outcome of the slaveholding system added to daily tensions about the limits of autonomy and the citizenship aspirations of those leaving slavery. Abolition required changes in individual and collective projects and reconfigured socio-racial frontiers.29

For the slaveholding class, as urgent as the recomposition of the labor force was the obtaining of money from the public coffers by way of compensation. Many plantation owners had mortgages based on slaves. Months after May 13, new battles would be waged in the press and the assembly about this. It is worth noting that with the 1871 law, slaveholders nourished the expectation that the ingênuos would serve them until the age of twenty-one. If this were so, slavery would only end in 1909 and for this reason, they presented legislative bills and pressured the government for some sort of financial compensation. Such insistence led José do Patrocínio to lament:

With the abolitionist struggle ending in law on 13 May, I thought of removing myself from the press, a position which for me has only been of the most crucifying sacrifice. I had only hoped to register the triumphal acclaim for Abolition, to bring an end to my journalistic mission. However, I was surprised by the screams of propaganda which threatened to destroy through compensation the immortal work of 13 May.30

The modern history he craved seemed threatened by the greed of the slaveholders. This question would only be buried in 1889 in the Republic when Rui Barbosa, another important abolitionist and then minister of finance, ordered the notary offices to get rid of documents proving slave ownership. A ministerial order of his about a compensation bill became famous, where it was stated that it would be more correct to compensate the former slaves.

The liberal press preferred to list what the nation had gained from abolition and the challenges ahead. Most important was the fact that, to the contrary of what had been seen in the United States and Cuba, slavery had ended without having “awoken racial hatred.” In A Minha Formação, Joaquim Nabuco explained this supposed social peace, comparing what slavery was in Brazil and the United States. For him, in Brazil, “slavery is a fusion of races; in the United States, it is the war between them.”31 In this sense, the “relaxing” of Brazilian slavery had already laid the foundations for a peaceful abolition, resolved in parliament thanks to the abolitionist campaign.

The appeal to racial conciliation and, at the same time, the reiteration of the frontier between the “emancipating race” and the “emancipated race” were recurrent political exercises of the press and the authorities after May 13. The emancipated race was thus invented, a category meant to include those whose African origin was visible on their skin and who lacked the social prestige or wealth to distance themselves from it. With this racialized discourse, the old seigneurial condition was preserved as a prerogative of whites, and the plurality of experiences of the colored population was erased, many of whom had been free before May 13, and the majority of whom had actually been born free. Part of this effort at the reconfiguration of differences and inequalities involved reaffirming the necessary tutelage of the emancipated slaves, including educating them for work and life in freedom.

Public education for work was one of the principal points of the abolitionist agenda. Since the 1860s, associations, masonic societies, and workers groups had created spaces of formal education for those who wanted to learn to read and write. In Rio de Janeiro, José do Patrocínio and his father-in-law, Captain Emiliano da Rocha, offered free night classes to slaves and freed people.32 At times, these initiatives went beyond learning to read and revealed that the black population could see much more than an education for manual labor. The trajectory of João de Cruz e Souza was exemplary in this sense. Son of freed slaves, in the 1870s he attended the prestigious Ateneu Provincial in the province of Santa Catarina and became the principal reference of symbolism in Brazilian literature.33 At time, having gone beyond the limit of a basic knowledge of reading and writing, slaves and freed people also extrapolated the limits of citizenship calculated for the emancipated race. In his analysis of educational spaces in Recife in the second half of the 19th century, Marcelo Mac Cord demonstrated how schooling was decisive for the formation of black leaders in the workers’ movement.34 This was the case for Antônio Baobad, freed in Rio Grande do Sul in 1886 and one of the founders of the Associação Mutualista dos Chapeleiros (Mutual Association of Hatters) in Pelotas and the Liga Operária (Workers’ League). In 1893, he led a strike in three factories in Pelotas.35

The participation of former slaves in the spheres of institutional politics, already viewed with suspicion during the abolitionist campaign, was a watershed in the immediate post-abolition period. With the adherence of the plantation owners to the republican idea shortly after abolition was decreed, a group known as the “republicans of 13 May” implied that part of the colored population was willing to defend the monarchy at all costs. In the press, the seigneurial class was called on to adhere to what was called national liberation: in other words, the republican cause. The bitter dispute between monarchists and republicans was repeatedly interpreted in this racialized perspective. In cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Santos, Porto Alegre, Salvador, and São Luís do Maranhão, the so-called Black Guards were organized, groups of poor black men, including capoeiras, willing to destabilize the republican movement, including attacking them when they spoke in public squares.

Not only the “republicans of 13 May” feared the emergence of an explicitly anti-racist political agenda with widespread participation of the recently freed slaves. The mobilization of the Black Guard was seen as proof of the ingratitude of the emancipated race. In his A Província de São Paulo, James P. Woodard noted how much the Black Guard was defined as “supreme political disloyalty” in which the “emancipated race,” the one composed of the “people of Africa,” “unconscious freed people,” “men of color,” and “blacks,” rebelled against the “emancipating race.”36 The rhetoric that associated abolition with the freedom of the emancipated race and the Republic with that of the emancipating race was not exclusive to the republican press in São Paulo: “the case was more typical and unique.”37 Rui Barbosa and José do Patrocínio, until then collaborators in the abolitionist movement, publicly diverged over the pertinence of the political activity of freed people and the Black Guard. In June 1889, Rui Barbosa accused Patrocínio of being the agent of the group, holding meetings for them in the offices of his newspaper, A Cidade do Rio, and orchestrating violent attacks against republican meetings. Patrocínio defended himself, denouncing the fact that “the new republicans did not give men of color the right to disagree with their opinions.”38

In 1909, when the Republic was well established, the participation of Monteiro Lopes, a former abolitionist student from Recife, another “man of color” in the political arena, showed how much post-abolition Brazilian society was refractory to racial inequality. Despite having been elected by a wide margin, Monteiro Lopes taking his seat as a deputy in Rio de Janeiro was only possible after exhaustive mobilization. Committed to asserting his right to be elected and to legislate, Monteiro Lopes used a discourse that emphasized his racial and national belonging. According to Carolina Dantas, Monteiro Lopes affirmed the indissoluble ties between blacks and the Republic and demanded equality with whites in that regime. He demanded the “communion of blacks and mulattos to defend the homeland, which is nothing more than the Republic, exempt and lacking racial prejudice.” According to Monteiro Lopes, the Republic

is ours because it is the result of 13 May, and who achieved 13 May was the brilliant black José do Patrocínio. Why do they intend to exclude us from the great national communion, we who have honored our flag defending with gallantry and boldness the integrity of the nation?!39

The 13 May date continued to be celebrated and various conflicts left it clear that the black population saw abolition as a fundamental change in their individual and collective agency.

Post-abolition and Citizenship

The first Brazilian republic established after the overthrow of the monarchy by a military coup in 1889 and legitimated by the 1891 Republican Constitution is often confused with the post-abolition period. Like the monarchy, the first republican constitution opted for a deracialized definition of Brazilian citizenship and the rights conferred on it despite the growing influence of racist scientific theories on Brazilian social thought and the daily use of racial language as a form of classifying and defining social places.

During the debates in the constituent assembly, although some defended more direct models for the exercise of political rights, the victorious options were in line with the directions already suggested for the 1881 monarchical electoral reform. This had a restrictive and elitist vision of the electorate, reducing the number of voters from 1,114,066 to 145,296, around 1 percent of the population. By maintaining a literacy requirement for political citizenship, the first republican constitution raised this proportion to no more than 2 percent initially, and even under the aegis of the 1891 constitution, it never passed 5 percent.40 Open instead of secret voting was also a political option for republican electoral regulation, which pointed in the same direction. The ideal voter needed to have courage and meet certain conditions to sustain their political convictions, configuring an elitist and “heroic” model of citizenship.41 The rhetoric of citizenship as an instrument of hierarchizing was an important presence in the political life of the Brazilian First Republic (1891–1930).

A police investigation in the city of Campos in Rio de Janeiro in the first decade of the Republic is a good example of this new type of situation. A plantation owner and police chief, “citizen Maneco Castro,” complained about the contempt for authority of his neighbor, “citizen Araújo Silva,” also a plantation owner. The latter had prevented Castro from entering his ranch to arrest a worker freed after May 13, “Preta (Black) Matilde,” who was accused of theft when she had worked on the chief of police’s ranch. The dispute between the two citizens revolved around the ideas of the Republic and of citizenship. On the one hand, the chief of police presented himself as a republican authority threatened by the private power of a plantation owner, while, on the other hand, Araújo Silva called himself a defender of the civil rights of a recently freed citizen threatened with the abuse of the chief of police’s authority. Behind the rhetoric of both, the efforts to reconstitute the hierarchization of the rural world after abolition were barely disguised, whether through using the repressive power of the state to force freed slaves to work or through using paternalism as a currency to attract and obtain workers or clientele. The structural role of racism and the consequent negation of citizenship to Matilde were evident, though without removing the power to politically use the rivalry between the two male plantation owner “citizens,” she chose to surrender her private loyalty to the one who spoke in the name of her own rights of citizenship.42

The capacity to mobilize armed men for political purposes was one of the most striking characteristics of the political experience of the Brazilian First Republic. In general, triggered by large rural landholders supported by an extensive clientele, these armed men were often called coronéis due to the tradition of possessing, as a rule, the highest rank in the National Guard, the militia in which only active citizens participated at the time of the Empire and which would officially end only in 1918.

The quarrel between the two named citizens in the police investigation regarding the civil rights of Matilde, a former slave freed after May 13, is an example of this context. The two coronéis who disputed the control over Matilde’s labor did not have their color formally named in the documentation. Matilde’s civil rights and her resulting freedom to come and go constituted a fundamental legal theme in the defense of the plantation owner who had welcomed her onto his land. Nevertheless, she was always referred to in the investigation in a racialized manner as “Preta (Black) Matilde,” a designation that directly linked her to the experience of captivity and incorporated the condition of a recently freed slave in name.

However, the silence about the color of the two named citizens did not signify that they were phenotypically white, although this gave them some social distinction, removing them from the slave past. It is known from a witness in the investigation that the plantation owner who protected the former slave was called a mulatto by one of the police chief’s armed men. Although the rights of citizenship were defined in a deracialized form, “non-white” citizens continued to be a target of racism. Whenever possible, the ethic of silence would be broken to try to racially disqualify a political adversary.

The anti-racist struggles and mobilizations to achieve the civil rights stipulated in the constitution for recently emancipated slaves were important political dimensions in the first republican years. Black sailors rebelled against corporal punishments in the navy in 1910, and rebelling affirmed their being sailors, Brazilian citizens, and republicans.43 The participation of Afro-Brazilian intellectuals in the press and in the political life of the country as free citizens had been significant since the monarchical period. Such participation, to a great extent, took place under the cover of a universalist discourse which preached silence about racial identification as a sign of citizenship. There were exceptions, especially in the first decades following independence, but racial silence predominated in the political activities of 19th-century Afro-Brazilian intellectuals.44 After abolition, an anti-racist and racially identified press once more began to emerge. In his book Negros e Política (1888–1937), Flávio dos Santos Gomes mentions at least eight “black newspapers” published between the last decade of the 19th century and the 1920s.45 Denouncing practices of racial discrimination, they were published in cities in various states, especially São Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul, and Pernambuco. The celebration of the memory of abolition galvanized in these newspapers a constructed identity of “men of color” who spoke in the name of the “black race” and their contribution to Brazilian society.

Institutionally, however, the racial silence established in the monarchist period still prevailed and was maintained as a legacy after the transformations of the Vargas Era (1930–1945). According to Fischer, Grinberg, and Mattos:

Echoing ideas from the middle of the nineteenth century and anticipating a general Latin American tendency, the 1920 census deliberately omitted the racial demographic data from Brazil. Around the 1930s, when Brazilian law began to be rapidly restructured, a large part of governmental and political institutions had formally adopted policies of racial silence.46

Intellectuals of the Vargas Era enshrined praise of racial mixing (mestiçagem) as a central characteristic of an imagined Brazilian racial democracy. Once again, the United States was presented as a mirror. While in the Empire 13 May was celebrated, exalting the absence of racial hated in Brazil in contrast to the experiences of US segregation, in the Vargas Era, the republican state denied racial belongings and racism. The Black Front, a racial political mobilization based on the memory of abolition, with ramifications all over the country, was declared illegal during the Estado Novo dictatorship (1937–1945), together with other political movements (e.g., communists, integralistas, and liberals). Unlike other groups, the memory of the Black Front remained erased for many years after democratization and was practically ignored by the political historiography of the period. In this game of silence and affirmation, the history of anti-racist struggles and black citizenship in Brazil was largely written in dialogues with the memory of abolition. One hundred years later, in 1988, the new constitution, enacted after the twenty-one-year-long civil and military dictatorship, would be the first to break racial silence as a state policy.

Black mobilization in the constituent assembly and in the commemorations of the centenary of abolition established the idea of incomplete abolition, defining 13 May as the date of struggle against racial inequality in the country. The work of the historian Beatriz Nascimento, an advisor to one of the commissions of the constituent assembly, on “the concept of quilombo and black cultural resistance” was fundamental to the passing of Article 68 of the Act of Transitory Constitutional Disposition, which recognized the right to collective property “of quilombo remnant communities who were occupying their lands.”47

One hundred years after abolition, the memory of the last slaves emerged with strength in the ethnogenesis movement resulting from the implementation of this constitutional article. The majority of those who then demanded to be recognized as “remnants of quilombo communities” in order to gain collective title to traditional lands are direct descendants of the old “13 May” abolition. In 2005, only 383 communities were officially recognized throughout the country, but at least 2,228 had requested recognition. Fifteen years later, the site of the Palmares Foundation shows 2,777 certified communities, a process that has redefined heritage and collective memories and engendered new public narratives about abolition.48

In the 21st century, the approval of the racial equality statute in 2010, the recognition of immaterial Afro-Brazilian heritage, and the development of affirmative action and Brazilian state reparation policies took place in parallel to the alarming rates of mortality of black youths at the hands of the country’s police. The post-abolition period is a time that refuses to end. The relationship between the history of slavery and the reproduction of institutional racism in Brazil has emerged as an increasingly sensitive question in the history of the country.

Discussion of the Literature

In the middle of the 1970s, the “transition from slave labor to free labor” became a central question in the historiography dealing with abolition in Brazil. The defense of subsidized immigration by the coffee planters of São Paulo, who made the country the principal exporter of the product in the international market, became the touchstone to understand the bankruptcy of slavery and the first decades of the republic. The work of Emília Viotti da Costa, Da senzala à Colônia (1966), and her essays “From Slavery to Free Labor” and “The Myth of Racial Democracy in Brazil” (1979), both of which have been translated into English, criticized the idea of Brazil as a “racial democracy” and was pioneering in this sense.49

In 1988, the centenary of abolition significantly altered this context. That year, Nada Além da Liberdade (Nothing but Freedom), by Eric Foner, was published in Brazil, with great repercussions among the historians of slavery who were then graduating. Foner himself came to Brazil to participate in various academic congresses organized to celebrate the centenary alongside other specialists who had begun to put the theme of post-emancipation societies in the Atlantic world on the agenda, such as Rebecca Scott, Thomas Holt, and Frederick Cooper. That same year, Rebecca Scott organized the dossier Abolition of Slavery and the Aftermath of Emancipation in Brazil in the Hispanic American Historical Review, with texts by Seymour Drescher, Hebe Mattos, George Reid Andrews, and Robert Levine, the first works to specifically deal with the post-emancipation period in Brazil.50 In this historiographic turn, the impacts and permanence of the slave past connect academic studies to struggles for civil rights and racial inequality in the societies of the Americas. A strong dialogue, especially in Brazil, of Brazilian historiography with social movements engaged in denouncing the idea of racial democracy as a political farce that hid the serious inequalities existing in the republican Brazil of the democratic reopening.

Extrapolating the interpretations centered on the coffee economy as an explanatory key to abolition was something assumed by a generation more in touch with ongoing political changes. The publication of Visões da Liberdade by Sidney Chalhoub (1990) and the article “Slavery, Citizenship, and the History of Labor in Brazil” by Sílvia Lara (1998) raised debates highlighting the fragility of the paradigm of transition from slave to free labor in Brazilian historiography.51 The conquests and demands of the so-called national workers required readings that placed them in the foreground and not as supporting actors in their own history. Abolition as a research subject came to be part of the flow of conquests of descendants of Africans and no longer as the last chapter in the struggle between elites subordinated to economic models.

Since then, in Brazilian universities, especially in graduate programs of history, the intersection between the social history of labor, the social history of law, and the social history of slavery has produced new approaches to the abolition process and the immediate post-abolition period, problematizing the role of the national state, identities of race as a social construction, and the agency of subaltern people. Attention to legal conflicts led by slaves, freed people, and freeborn blacks for rights evidences strategies for confronting slavery outside the dichotomy of revolt and accommodation.52 Out of these approaches came books such as O Plano e o Pânico (1994), by Maria Helena Machado, and Das Cores do Silêncio (1995), by Hebe Mattos, which highlighted the plurality of subjects, including slaves and freed people, and projects in dispute in the emancipationist process in Brazil.53

During the 1990s, research that highlighted the political and cultural ties of black populations in contemporary Brazil with Africans from the “time of captivity” gained space in Brazilian historiography. In this still fertile path, discovering the destinies of the last enslaved workers and their descendants and the history of anti-racist struggles and black citizenship in Brazil are questions of research which have defined the post-abolition field as one of the most promising fields of research in 21st-century Brazil.54 Works such as Memórias do Cativeiro (2005), by Ana Lugão Rios and Hebe Mattos, and Encruzilhadas da liberdade (2006), by Walter Fraga Filho analyzed conflicts over land and rights of black workers in the principal slaveholding areas in the country, highlighting the constructed memories of the slave past and the political struggles to reaffirm black cultures.55

From the point of view of the study of racial relations, until the 1990s there predominated a perspective based to a great extent on the case of São Paulo and marked by an economic analysis in which the destiny of the freed slaves was defined by growing marginalization due to competition with European immigrants in the urban labor market, as postulated by Florestan Fernandes in his classic A Integração do Negro na Sociedade de Classes, published for the first time in 1965.56 The historiography, at the same time that it moved away from the fatalistic nature of this analysis, has shown how the populations escaping slavery faced socio-racial barriers. In investigating the meanings and aspirations to freedom of populations in rural areas densely populated by Africans and their descendants, space was opened for the analysis of racial belonging and silencing.57

This involved a historiographic renewal which has politically interpreted the socially given mechanisms for the re-emergence of racial inequalities in the Republic. In this sense, sociological approaches to race, miscegenation, and whitening, such as those presented in Racismo à Brasileira- Uma nova perspectiva sociológica, by Eduardo Telles (2003), and Uma história do branqueamento ou o negro em questão, by Andreas Hofbauer (2006), were fundamental for the synchronism between the theoretical-methodological concerns of historians and the construction of the racial question as an object of history. This dialogical effort between sociology and history continued to be fertile in A Reprodução do racismo (2016) by Karl Monsma, a rereading of the relations and dissensions between black and immigrant workers in the west of São Paulo.58

Since then, the abolition of slavery and abolitionism have also been reread by authors who gave centrality to the question of citizenship, such as the example of the collection Quase-cidadão (2007), organized by Olivia Cunha and Flavio Gomes, which brought together studies on the limits of black freedom in the post-abolition era. O jogo da dissimulação, by Wlamyra Albuquerque (2009), analyzed the interconnections between the unraveling of slavery and the forms of racialization used by the state, elites, and black populations at the time of abolition.59 Both titles pointed to a promising and urgent history of racism in Brazil.

Various collections have systematized the rising production in this field, bringing together results of research on already established issues, such as studies of trajectories and cultures of freed slaves, as well as questions and subjects that are still little analyzed by the historiography, such as biographies of black men and women from the 20th century and the black movement.60 In 2012, when the first “Post-Abolition Histories of the Atlantic World” seminar was held, giving rise to the Work Group “Emancipations and Post-Abolition” in the Brazilian Association of History (ANPUH), the originality of the research agenda and the significant presence of young black researchers surprised the organizers. The boom of publications about emancipation, post-abolition, and citizenship in the first two decades of the 21st century is also the fruit of the new historiographic perspectives, one of the most potent results of the affirmative action policies put into practice between 2001 and 2015. The principal works discussed in the seminar were published in three volumes in the e-book, Histórias do Pós-abolição no mundo atlântico, with the subtitles: Political Projects and Identities; Experiences and Struggles for Freedom; and Culture, Racial Relations, and Citizenship.61 With the participation of young researchers with recent doctorates and renowned specialists from Brazil and abroad, the collection is a significant indicator of the historiographic production that would be consolidated in the following years. Many of the papers initially presented were afterward published in more dense versions, in scientific articles or books, in Portuguese or English.62 Since then, the historiography about abolition and post-abolition in Brazil has increasingly explored transatlantic and Atlantic connections, as well as intersections between race, class, and gender, dealing with the relations between citizenship and racism in Brazilian history.63

Primary Sources

All of the parliamentary discussions that led to the slow process of abolition in Brazil can be seen in the Annals of the Chamber of Deputies, which are digitalized and published on the Chamber of Deputies’ website. In addition, the collection of laws of the Brazilian Empire is available in digital form. These are important documentary sets for discovering the meanderings of the abolitionist process, the arguments, and the negotiations between the two political parties in 19th-century Brazil, the Liberals and the Conservatives.

The press was central in the abolitionist campaign. The most complete collection of 19th-century Brazilian periodicals is archived in the National Library (Biblioteca Nacional—BN) and can be accessed via the databases in the National Library’s Hemeroteca Digital. Local periodicals and publications by corporate bodies and the so-called black press contain particular aspects such as member lists and announcements of abolitionist events. They can be found in state libraries and the offices of workers’ recreational associations, which provide information about forms of struggle, internal dissensions, and black sociability in the time of abolition.

Documentary collections of Brazilian ministries and public bodies from the Empire in which emancipationist policies were discussed and implemented are kept and can be accessed in the databases of the National Archives in Rio de Janeiro. The same applies to provincial public documentation held in various state public archives, including the collections of manumission registrations, the livros de notas.

The National Archive holds the civil and criminal records of the city of Rio de Janeiro and the higher courts. These sources are fundamental in dealing with the agency of enslaved workers in the abolitionist process and the relations between freed slaves and former slave owners in the post-abolition period, which reached the highest realms of the state. A considerable number of these conflicts were resolved at the provincial level, and for this reason, the consultation of state and municipal archives has been important to researchers in accessing legal cases for freedom and for re-enslavement. As well as highlighting the reasons for conflicts in the middle of the crisis of slavery, these collections have been useful for the reconstitution of cooperation networks between various parties involved in disputes over freedom, whether lawyers, judges, or guardians.

The process of the abolition of slavery in Brazil is associated with a growing institutional silence about the color of the free population. In addition to the rhetoric of whitening, the practice of racial silence in formal settings of equality created an ethic of silence to prevail, predominant in Brazilian republican documentation until the 1988 Constitution and beyond, which, in a contradictory manner, reinforced the informal creation of racial categories and colors as forms of social classifications of Brazilians.

As a result, finding former slaves and their descendants in official Brazilian records in the second half of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th is not a simple task. At the beginning of the Republic, Rui Barbosa, Minister of Finance, burned the documentation related to the registration of the last slaves in order to put an end to demands for compensation from former slave owners. His reason for his action was that slavery should be forgotten. However, the majority of official agencies continued to stigmatize black populations and to under-register or reclassify them through silence and the rhetoric of whitening.

Once researchers are aware of this process, it is possible to work with Brazilian color and ethno-racial denominations in public sources in the immediate post-abolition period as mobile categories of classification, revisiting old sources with new questions. Civil and criminal court cases, official reports, and all Brazilian institutional documentation can be revisited, examining the options of silence or ethno-racial classification of the population. Not by chance in the documentation of the police in certain circumstances did the authorities break with this silence when they described those involved in conflicts as the “freed people of 13 May.”

The positive appropriation of African origins and the suffering of slavery is also an old phenomenon related to black identity in Brazil. Black associations have been an important phenomenon since the Catholic brotherhoods of black and mixed-race men of the colonial era. It was redefined at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, above all in the black workers’ movement and the emergence of a black press. Afro-Brazilian cultural and religious associations also left documentation, which has been increasingly researched. Black worker associations, the black press, cultural associations, and Afro-Brazilian spaces of worship are being increasingly studied using private archives, sources of public repression, and oral traditions.

Letters, autobiographies, and photographs have been accessed in private collections by scholars interested in aspects of private life such as domestic parties and family arrangements and agreements about such subjects as manumission, the transference of slave property, and the rebellion of slaves and criados (servants). In recent historiography, which is more attentive to interrelationships between race and gender, studies deal with the experiences of women of color, slaves, freed people, or those born free, as servants, nursemaids, and domestic employees before and after May 13.

Finally, oral history has been used in relation to the trajectory of the last generation of enslaved Africans as well as the history of cultural traditions of those of Afro-Brazilian origin, recognized as the cultural heritage of the country after the 1988 Constitution. The social trajectories of those who possess this cultural heritage are being studied, resulting in new approaches to oral archives. Transcriptions and original interviews have been produced in projects carried out at the Universidade de São Paulo and at the Oral and Image History Laboratory of Universidade Federal Fluminense. These are open for consultation and are partially available online.

Links to Digital Materials

Further Reading

  • Alberto, Paulina. Terms of Inclusion: Black Intellectuals in Twentieth-Century Brazil. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.
  • Albuquerque, Wlamyra. O Jogo da Dissimulação: abolição e cidadania negra no Brasil. São Paulo, Brazil: Civilização Brasileira, 2009.
  • Andrews, George Reid. Black and Whites in São Paulo, Brazil. 1888–1988. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991.
  • Castilho, Celso. Slave Emancipation and Transformations in Brazilian Political Citizenship. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016.
  • Castilho, Celso, and Maria Helena P. T. Machado, eds. Tornando-se livre: agentes históricos e lutas sociais no processo de abolição. São Paulo, Brazil: EDUSP, 2015.
  • Cowling, Camillia. Conceiving Freedom: Women of Color, Gender, and the Abolition of Slavery in Havana and Rio de Janeiro. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013.
  • Cunha, Olívia Maria Gomes, and Flávio dos Santos Gomes. Quase-cidadão: histórias e antropologias da pós-emancipação no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: FGV, 2007.
  • Gomes, Flávio, and Petronio Dominguez, eds. Experiências da emancipação: biografias, instituições e movimentos sociais no pós-abolição (1890–1980). São Paulo, Brazil: Selo Negro, 2011.
  • Fischer, Brodwyn. A Poverty of Rights. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008.
  • Fischer, B., K. Grinberg, and H. Mattos. “Law, Silence, and Racialized Inequalities in the History of Afro-Brazil.” In Afro-Latin American Studies: An Introduction. Edited by A De La Fuente and George Andres, 130–176. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2018.
  • Fraga, Walter. Crossroads of Freedom: Slaves and Freed People in Bahia, Brazil, 1870–1910. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016.
  • Grinberg, Keila, and Ricardo Salles, eds. O Brasil Imperial, vol. 3, 1870–1889. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Civilização Brasileira, 2009.
  • Hertzman, Marc. Making Samba: A New History of Race and Music in Brazil. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013.
  • Ickes, Scott, and Bern Reiter, ed. The Making of Brazil´s Black Mecca. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2018.
  • Koutsoukos, Sandra Sofia Machado. Negros no estúdio do fotógrafo. Campinas, Brazil: Editora da UNICAMP, 2010.
  • Mattos, Hebe. Das Cores do Silêncio. Significados da Liberdade no Brasil Escravista, 3rd ed. Campinas, Brazil: Editora da UNICAMP, 2013.
  • Mendonça, Joceli Maria Nunes. Entre a mão e os anéis: a lei dos sexagenários e os caminhos da abolição no Brasil. Campinas, Brazil: Editora da UNICAMP, 1999.
  • Needell, Jeffrey. The Sacred Cause: The Abolitionist Movement, Afro-Brazilian Mobilization, and Imperial Politics in Rio de Janeiro. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2020.
  • Pinto, Ana Flávia Magalhães. Escritos da Liberdade: literatos negros, racismo e cidadania no Brasil escravista. Campinas, Brazil: Editora da UNICAMP, 2018.
  • Rios, Ana Lugão, and Hebe Mattos. Memórias do Cativeiro. Família, trabalho e cidadania no pós-abolição. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Civilização Brasileira, 2005.
  • Schwarcz, Lilia Moritz, ed. Contos completos de Lima Barreto. São Paulo, Brazil: Companhia das Letras, 2010.
  • Schwarcz, Lilia Moritz, and Maria Helena P. T. Machado, eds. Emancipação, inclusão e exclusão. São Paulo, Brazil: EDUSP, 2018.
  • Scott, Rebecca, ed. The Abolition of Slavery and the Aftermath of Emancipation in Brazil. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1988.
  • Xavier, Regina Célia Lima, and Helen Osório, eds. Do tráfico ao pós-abolição: trabalho compulsório e livre e a luta por direitos sociais no Brasil. São Leopoldo, Brazil: Oikos, 2018.


This article was translated from the Portuguese by Eoin O’Neill.


  • 1. Hebe Mattos, Das Cores do Silêncio (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Arquivo Nacional, 1995), pt. 1 and pt. 2.

  • 2. Celso Castilho, Slave Emancipation and Transformations in Brazilian Political Citizenship (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016); Maria Helena Machado, O plano e o pânico: os movimentos sociais na década da Abolição (São Paulo, Brazil: EDUSP, 1994); and Angela Alonso, Flores, votos e balas: o movimento abolicionista brasileiro (1868–1888) (São Paulo, Brazil: Companhia das Letras, 2015).

  • 3. Hebe Mattos, “Um livro ‘tolstoico’ contra a ‘brutalidade yankee’: a África e a abolição da escravidão e da servidão no Brasil, nos Estados Unidos e na Rússia na escrita de si de André Rebouças,” in Instituições Nefandas: o fim da escravidão e da servidão no Brasil, nos Estados Unidos e na Rússia, ed. Ivana S. Lima, Keila Grinberg, Daniel Aarão Reis (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Fundação Casa de Rui Barbosa, e-book, 2018); and Rebecca J. Scott, Emancipação escrava em Cuba: a transição para o trabalho livre, 1860–1899 [Slave emancipation in Cuba: The transition to free labor] (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Paz e Terra, 1991), 65–66

  • 4. Annaes do Senado do Império do Brasil: 3rd Sessão em 1871 da 14th Legislatura de 1 a 30 de Setembro (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Typographia do Diário do Rio de Janeiro, 1871), vol. V, 30.

  • 5. Sidney Chalhoub, Machado de Assis, Historiado (São Paulo, Brazil: Companhia das Letras, 2003).

  • 6. Celso Castilho, “Propõem-se a qualquer consignação, menos de escravos,” in Tornando-se livre: agentes históricos e lutas sociais no processo de abolição, ed. Maria Helena P. T. Machado and Celso Castilho (São Paulo, Brazil: EDUSP, 2015), 277–292.

  • 7. By law it was also permitted for a slave to contract services to a third party with the aim of raising money for the purchase of manumission. The province corresponds to what is now the state of Rio Grande do Sul; and Thiago Leitão de Araújo, “Nem escravos, nem libertos: os contratos de prestação de serviços nos últimos anos da escravidão na província de São Paulo,” in Tornando-se livre: agentes históricos e lutas sociais no processo de abolição, ed. Maria Helena P. T. Machado and Celso Castilho (São Paulo, Brazil: EDUSP, 2015), 85–104.

  • 8. The expression is the title of an important work on the post-abolition period in the Atlantic world; see Frederick Cooper, Thomas Holt, and Rebecca Scott, Beyond Slavery: Explorations of Race, Labor, and Citizenship in Post-emancipation Societies (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000).

  • 9. Peter Eisenberg, “Ficando livre: as alforrias em Campinas no século XIX,” Homens esquecidos: escravos e trabalhadores livres no Brasil, séculos XVIII e XIX (Campinas, Brazil: Editora da UNICAMP, 1898), 287–292.

  • 10. Scott, Emancipação escrava em Cuba.

  • 11. Robert Conrad, The Destruction of Brazil Slavery, 1850–1888 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1972), 347.

  • 12. Elciene Azevedo, Orfeu de Carapinha: a trajetória de Luiz Gama na imperial cidade de São Paulo (Campinas, Brazil: Editora da Unicamp, 1999).

  • 13. In relation to the abolitionist process in Ceará, see, among others, Conrad, Destruction of Brazilian Slavery, chap. 11; and Paulo Henrique de Souza Martins, “Escravidão, Abolição e Pós-Abolição no Ceará: sobre histórias, memórias e narrativas dos últimos escravos e seus descendentes no Sertão cearense” (master’s thesis, Niterói, Universidade Federal Fluminense, 2012).

  • 14. Osório Duque Estada, A Abolição (Brasília, Brazil: Senado Federal, 2005), 171.

  • 15. Conrad, Destruction of Brazil Slavery; and Machado, O Plano e o Pânico, 157.

  • 16. Sidney Chalhoub, Visões da Liberdade: uma história das últimas décadas da escravidão na Corte (São Paulo, Brazil: Companhia das Letras, 1990).

  • 17. Maciel Henrique Silva, Pretas de honra: vida e trabalho de domésticas e vendedoras no Recife do século XIX (Salvador, Brazil: EDUFBa, 2011).

  • 18. Celso Castilho, “Propõem-se a qualquer consignação, menos de escravos,” in Tornando-se livre: agentes históricos e lutas sociais no processo de abolição, ed. Maria Helena P. T. Machado and Celso Castilho (São Paulo, Brazil: EDUSP, 2015), 277–293.

  • 19. Estrada, A Abolição, 182.

  • 20. Lilia Schwarcz, “Dos males da dádiva: sobre as ambiguidades no processo da Abolição brasileira,” in Tornando-se livre: agentes históricos e sociais no processo de abolição, ed. Maria Helena P. T. Machado and Celso Castilho (São Paulo, Brazil: EDUSP, 2015), 23–54; and Hebe Mattos. “A generosidade dos senhores,” in Das Cores do Silêncio, pt. 3, chap. 3.

  • 21. José do Patrocínio, Cidade do Rio, April 30, 1888, 1.

  • 22. Estrada, A Abolição, 188.

  • 23. José do Patrocínio commented on the discomfort of João Alfredo who, embarrassed, avoided the multitude in José do Patrocínio, Cidade do Rio, May 8, 1888.

  • 24. Renata Figueiredo Moraes, “‘O dia delírio’ de Machado de Assis e as festas da abolição,” Dossiê Machado de Assis em Linha 11, no. 23 (2018): 34–53.

  • 25. For data about slave populations in the provinces, see Conrad, Destruction of Brazil Slavery, chap. 8.

  • 26. Mattos, Das Cores do Silêncio, pt. 3.

  • 27. Bert Barickamn, “Até à véspera: o trabalho escravo e a produção de açúcar nos engenhos do Recôncavo baiano (1850–1881),” Revista Afro Ásia 21–22 (1998): 194.

  • 28. Walter Fraga Filho, Encruzilhadas da liberdade: histórias e trajetórias de escravos libertos na Bahia, 1870–1910 (Campinas, Brazil: Ed. UNICAMP, 2006); English translation, Walter Fraga, Crossroads of Freedom: Slaves and Freed People in Bahia, Brazil, 1870–1910 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016). The conflicts were reproduced in all the old slaveholding regions; see, among others, George Reid Andrews, Black and Whites in São Paulo, Brazil. 1888–1988 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991), pt. 1; and Minas Gerais and Marileide Lázara Cassoli, A Construção da Liberdade. Vivências da Escravidão e do Pós-Abolição (Jundiaí, São Paulo, Brazil: Paco Editorial, 2017).

  • 29. Mattos, “Nós Tudo Hoje é Cidadão,” in Das Cores do Silêncio, pt. 4.

  • 30. José do Patrocínio, “À ponta da pena,” Cidade do Rio, January 4, 1889.

  • 31. Joaquim Nabuco, Minha Formação (São Paulo, Brazil: Editora 34, 2012), 197.

  • 32. Rebecca Bergstresser, “The Movement for the Abolition of Slavery in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1880–1889)” (PhD diss., University of Stanford, Stanford, CA, 1973).

  • 33. Paulino de Jesus Cardoso, Negros em Desterro: experiências de populações de origem africana em Florianópolis na segunda metade do século XIX (Itajaí, Brazil: Casa Aberta, 2004).

  • 34. Marcelo Mac Cord, Artifíces da cidadania: mutualismo, educação e trabalho no Recife oitocentista (Campinas, Brazil: Editora da UNICAMP, 2012).

  • 35. Beatriz Loner, Construção de Classe: operários de Pelotas e Rio Grande (1888–1930) (Pelotas, Brazil: Editora da UFPel, 2001).

  • 36. “Traidores à pátria,” A Província de São Paulo, March 23, 1889, 1; and James P. Woodard, A Place in Politics: São Paulo, Brazil, from Seigneurial Republicanism to Regionalist Revolt (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009), 107.

  • 37. Woodard, A Place in Politics, 68.

  • 38. Patrocínio, Cidade do Rio, December 31, 1888; and Flávio Gomes, “No meio das águas turvas: raça, cidadania e mobilização política na cidade do Rio de Janeiro (188-1889)”, in Experiências da Emancipação -biografias, instituições e movimentos sociais no pós-abolição (1890-1980), ed. Flávio Gomes e Petrônio Dominguez (São Paulo, Brazil: Selo Negro, 2011), 23.

  • 39. Monteiro Lopes, “Carta a Rodolpho Xavier,” 02/05/1910 with Carolina Vianna Dantas, “Eleições e mobilização negra: o caso das viagens de Monteiro Lopes pelo Brasil (1909–1910),” in Histórias do Pós-abolição no mundo atlântico, vol. 1, ed. Martha Abreu, Carolina Vianna Dantas, Hebe Mattos, Beatriz Loner and Karl Monsma (Niterói, Brazil: Ed. UFF, 2013), 119. In relation to the participation of Monteiro Lopes as a student in the abolitionist struggles in Recife, see Castilho, Slave Emancipation and Transformations, 164.

  • 40. Renato Lessa, A Invenção Republicana (São Paulo, Brazil: Vértice, 1988), introduction, chap. 1.

  • 41. Cristina Buarque de Hollanda, Modos de representação política: o experimento da primeira república (Belo Horizonte, Brazil: UFJMF/IUPERJ, 2009).

  • 42. Sumário de culpa por crime de desacato e desobediência contra Joaquim José de Araújo Silva, Cartório do Terceiro Ofício de Notas de Campos, with Mattos, Das Cores do Silêncio, pt. 4, chap. 1; about the case and its developments for the understanding of the post-abolition political dynamics, see also Hebe Mattos, “A vida politica,” in História do Brasil Nação: A abertura para o mundo (1889–1930), ed. Lilia Schwarcz (Rio de Janiero, Brazil: Objetiva, 2012), 85–132.

  • 43. See Álvaro Pereira do Nacimento, Cidadania, cor e disciplina na revolta dos marinheiros de 1910 (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Mauad/FAPERJ, 2008); and Silvia Capanema, “Vidas de marinheiro no Brasil republicano: identidades, corpos e lideranças da revolta de 1910,” Antíteses 3 (December 2010): 90–114.

  • 44. Compare, among others, Ana Flávia Magalhães Pinto, Imprensa negra no Brasil do século XIX (São Paulo, Brazil: Selo Negro, 2010); Castilho, Slave Emancipation and Transformations; Rodrigo Camargo de Godoi, Um editor no Império: Francisco de Paula Brito (São Paulo, Brazil: EDUSP, 2016); Keila Grinberg, A Black Jurist in a Slave Society: Antonio Pereira Rebouças and the Trial of Brazilian Citizenship (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019); and Hebe Mattos, “Slavery, Race, and the Construction of the Imperial Order,” in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History, ed. Lauren (Robin) Derby (Oxford: Oxford University Press), forthcoming.

  • 45. Flavio dos Santos Gomes, Negros e Politica: 1888–1937 (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Zahar, 2005).

  • 46. Brodwyn Fischer, Keila Grinberg, and Hebe Mattos, “Direito, Silêncio e Racialização das Desigualdades na História Afro-Brasileira,” in Estudos afro-latino-americanos: uma introdução, ed. Alejandro de la Fuente and George Reid Andrews (Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, Brazil: CLACSO, 2018), 178. English edition: Brodwyn Fischer, Keila Grinberg, and Hebe Mattos, “Law, Silence, and Racialized Inequalities in the History of Afro-Brazil,” in Afro-Latin American Studies: An Introduction, ed. Alejandro de la Fuente and George Reid Andrews (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press), 130–176.

  • 47. Beatriz Nascimento, “O conceito de quilombo e a resistência cultural negra,” in Eu sou Atlântica. A trajetória de Beatriz Nascimento, ed. Alex Ratz (São Paulo, Brazil: Instituto Kuanza/Imprensa Oficial, 2006).

  • 48. For 2005 data, see Hebe Mattos, “Remanescentes das comunidades dos quilombos: memória do cativeiro e políticas de reparação no Brasil,” Revista USP 68 (2006): 104–111; for updated numbers of communities certified by Fundação Cultural Palmares: QUADRO GERAL DE COMUNIDADES REMANESCENTES DE QUILOMBOS (CRQs).

  • 49. Emilia Viotti da Costa, The Brazilian Empire: Myths and Histories (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985).

  • 50. Eric Foner, Nada Além da Liberdade: a emancipação e seu legado, trans. Luis Paulo Rouanet (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Paz e Terra, 1988). [Nothing but freedom: Emancipation and its legacy]; and Rebecca Scott, Seymour Drecher, Hebe Mattos, George R. Andrew, and Robert Levine, The Abolition of Slavery and the Aftermath of Emancipation in Brazil (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1988).

  • 51. Chalhoub, Visões da Liberdade; and Silvia Lara, “Escravidão, cidadania e história do trabalho no Brasil,” Revista do Programa de Pós-Graduação de HistóriaPUCSP, Projeto História, v. 16, 1998.

  • 52. Joceli Maria Nunes Mendonça, Entre a mão e os anéis: A lei dos sexagenários e os caminhos da abolição no Brasil (Campinas, Brazil: Editora da UNICAMP, 1999); Elciene Azevedo, Orfeu da Carapinha: a trajetória de Luiz Gama na Imperial cidade de São Paulo (Campinas, Brazil: Editora da UNICAMP, 1999); and Chalhoub, Machado de Assis, historiador.

  • 53. Machado, O Plano e o Pânico; and Mattos, Das Cores do Silêncio.

  • 54. The year 2004 saw the publication of Ana Lugão Rios and Hebe Mattos, “O pós-abolição como problema histórico: balanços e perspectivas,” Topoi (Rio de Janeiro) 5, no. 8 (2004): 170–198; and the publication in Portuguese of the translation of Beyond Slavery, with an introduction about Brazil; see Frederick Cooper, Thomas C. Holt, and Rebecca J. Scott, Além da escravidão: explorações sobre raça, trabalho e cidadania em sociedades pós-emancipação, trans. Maria Beatriz de Medina, prefácio Hebe Mattos (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Civilização Brasileira, 2004).

  • 55. Ana Lugão Rios and Hebe Mattos, Memórias do Cativeiro: trabalho, família e cidadania no pós-abolição (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Civilização Brasileira, 2005); and Filho, Encruzilhadas da Liberdade.

  • 56. Florestan Fernandes, A Integração do negro na sociedade de classes (São Paulo, Brazil: Globo, 2008).

  • 57. Hebe Mattos, Das Cores do Silêncio: os significados da liberdade no Sudeste Escravista, 3rd ed. (Campinas, Brazil: Editora da Unicamp, 2013); the first edition is from Arquivo Nacional, in 1995. See also “Prefácio” in Além da Escravidão; and “The Madness of Justina and Januário Mina: Rethinking Boundaries between Free and Enslaved Labor in Nineteenth-Century Brazil,” Quaderni storici, Rivista quadrimestrale 1 (2015): 175–200.

  • 58. Karl Monsma, A reprodução do racismo: Fazendeiros, negros e imigrantes no oeste paulista, 1880–1914 (São Carlos, Brazil: Eduscar, 2016).

  • 59. Olívia Maria Gomes da Cunha and Flávio dos Santos Gomes, Quase- cidadão: histórias e antropologias do pós-emancipação no Brasil (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: FGV, 2007); and Wlamyra Ribeiro de Albuquerque, O Jogo da Dissimulação: abolição e cidadania negra no Brasil (São Paulo, Brazil: Companhia das Letras, 2009).

  • 60. Regina Célia Xavier, ed., Escravidão e Liberdade- temas, problemas e perspectivas de análise (São Paulo, Brazil: Alameda, 2012); Verena Alberti and Amilcar de Araújo Pereira, Histórias do Movimento Negro no Brasil: Depoimentos ao CPDOC (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: FGV Ed., 2007); Gomes and Domingues, eds., Experiências da emancipação; Machado and Castilho, eds., Tornando-se livre; Sidney Chalhoub and Ana Flavia Magalhães Pinto, eds., Pensadores Negros- Pensadoras Negras, Brasil Séculos XIX e XX (Cruz das Almas, Brazil: EDUFRB, 2016); Lilia Schwarcz and Maria Helena Machado, eds., Emancipação, inclusão e exclusão: desafios do passado e do presente (São Paulo, Brazil: EDUSP, 2018); Maria Helena P. T. Machado and Emily West. eds., Motherhood, Childlessness and the Care of Children in Atlantic Slave Societies (Oxfordshire, UK: Routledge, 2019).

  • 61. Martha Abreu, Carolina Vianna Dantas, Hebe Mattos, Beatriz Loner, and Karl Monsma, eds., Histórias do Pós-abolição no mundo atlântico, vol. 1 (Niterói, Brazil: Ed. UFF, 2013), 2, 3.

  • 62. Among others, Amilcar Araújo Pereira, O Mundo de Negro: Relacões Raciais e a Construção do Movimento Contemporâneo no Brasil (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Pallas, 2013); Rodrigo de Azevedo Weimer, Felisberta e sua gente: Consciência histórica e racialização em uma família negra no pós-emancipação rio grandense (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: FGV Ed., 2015); Monsma, A Reprodução do Racismo; Lilia Schwarcz. Lima Barreto. Triste Visionário (São Paulo, Brazil: Cia das Letras, 2017); and Martha Abreu. Canções Escravas e Racismo nas Américas (Campinas, Brazil: editora da UNICAMP, 2018).

  • 63. The most important books published on the theme after 2012 are prioritized in the “Further Readings” section of this article.