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date: 30 April 2017

Free Afro-Brazilians in the 19th Century

Summary and Keywords

Although the slave trade to Brazil did not end until 1850, and slavery itself lasted until 1888, the practice of freeing slaves had been common from the time of first colonization by the Portuguese in the 16th century, and the children of freed women were born free. The result was that, by the time of a national census in 1872, there were 4.25 million free blacks and mulattos in the country, accounting for over three quarters of all those of African descent and two fifths of Brazil’s total population.

To understand the willingness of Brazilian slave owners to free so many one must first consider the general nature of Brazil’s social structure and the paradigms that ordered it. For most, society was not thought of as being made up of individuals equally protected in their rights and mobile in relationship to one another, but by castes, ranks, corporations, guilds, and brotherhoods, layered one atop another or arranged side by side. Almost everyone could feel superior to someone else, even if inferior to others. The nuanced distinctions of ranks somewhat restrained the threat to social order that free and freed blacks might otherwise have been thought to pose. “Free-and-equal” was not a phrase heard in Brazil.

There is overwhelming evidence that race was an important variable affecting one’s position, and discrimination against blacks was widespread and constant. The government reinforced the prejudices of white Brazilians, acquiesced in maintaining a hierarchy based on color, and presented obstacles to the ambitions of free African Brazilians. Civil service positions were usually denied to them, regardless of their qualifications. Recruitment for the army was focused on the poor, that is, on African Brazilians.

Yet, it is also true that many individuals found their way around those obstacles and rose to positions of some importance, for skin color was just one of the many characteristics to be considered. There are multiple examples of freeborn mulattos (and some freed and freeborn blacks) who succeeded in 19th-century Brazil. Some became doctors, pharmacists, journalists, and teachers. Others entered politics and rose to positions of real power. A few worked energetically to bring about the end of slavery.

Keywords: abolition, Africans, Brazil, free blacks, slaves, slavery, freed slaves, freedom, race

Although the slave trade to Brazil did not end until 1850, and slavery itself lasted until 1888, the practice of freeing slaves had been a common one from the time of first colonization by the Portuguese in the 16th century, and the children of free women were born free. So, by the 19th by far the greater part of all Afro-Brazilians were free. First, we need to account for such a widespread willingness of slave owners to free their slaves. And then we ask, how were free blacks treated? On the one hand, discrimination against blacks was widespread and constant. On the other, a number of individuals reached prestigious positions and even some power, for skin color was just one characteristic by which an individual was judged. Some free Afro-Brazilians worked to end slavery itself.


How many free persons of color were there in Brazil before the end of slavery in 1888? According to the 1872 census, there were 4.25 million free blacks and mulattos in the country, and they accounted for at least three quarters of all African Brazilians (compared to a mere 262,000 or 6 percent of all African Americans in the U.S. South on the eve of emancipation). And more: free blacks and mulattos represented more than two fifths of the total Brazilian population.1 Already a century before that, in 1775, over a third of all African Brazilians in the city of Salvador (Bahia) were free, in this, the largest entrepôt of the slave trade in the Americas at that time. In the province of Minas Gerais, a region of gold and diamond mining that had imported thousands of Africans in the 18th century, 41 percent of African Brazilians were free in 1786. And in 1834, when Rio de Janeiro had become the major port of entry for the slave trade (from Africa and from other Brazilian provinces), a quarter of all blacks and mulattos were free. In one decade alone (the 1860s), owners in the city of Rio de Janeiro granted over 13,000 freedom charters to their slaves.2

Free Afro-Brazilians in the 19th CenturyClick to view larger

Figure 1. Brazil and its provinces in 1860.

Courtesy of Richard Graham.

These demographic features resulted from the frequent manumission of slaves practiced over a long time, and not just of the old and infirm, but of the newborn and the prized. Both cultural understandings and legal provisions made the granting of freedom to children and adults normal; such acts were regarded as praiseworthy, and foreign visitors were invariably startled to discover their frequency.3 It is important to note immediately, however, that between two fifths and one half of adult slaves who were freed paid for their freedom in cash or the promise of cash. Slaves secured such funds because of the common practice of allowing them to find their own employment, returning to their masters a fixed sum, and keeping the remainder for themselves. They were called ganhadores, “earners.” Masters could demand as payment for granting freedom the rough equivalent of the price of a new slave. Even then, not just any slave could purchase his or her freedom, for manumission was still considered a concession on the part of the master, granted to the obedient and the loyal, from whom gratitude was expected.4 Furthermore, the open-handed freeing of children can be partly explained by the relatively high cost of rearing a child in comparison to the low cost of buying a full-grown slave just off the boat from Africa, a fact that explains why manumissions became less common after the end of the slave trade. Manumission also lessened in areas of newly booming plantations, where the slaves had been purchased from older areas.5 As well, far fewer Europeans went to Brazil than to North America, so there were insufficient numbers of whites who were willing to perform those innumerable tasks that could not be properly carried out by the usual bondsman or woman because these jobs required freedom of movement, unsupervised labor, and motivation. Still, the rate of manumission was impressive and had long been so.

Women were freed much more often than men, despite an overall predominance of males in the slave population as a whole. The bulk of these women were of childbearing age. In the city of Rio de Janeiro in the early 19th century, two thirds of the freed persons in the period 1807–1831 were women and, whereas African-born men there outnumbered women almost 2 to 1, freedwomen somewhat outnumbered freedmen even among the African born.6

How Society Was Ordered

This widespread willingness to grant freedom to slaves can be explained by considering some crucial aspects of the country’s general social structure. In colonial times, before the 19th century, Brazilian society, like that of Portugal, was not envisioned as formed by individuals equally protected in their rights and mobile in relationship to one another, but by castes, ranks, professional organizations, military corps, guilds, and brotherhoods, layered one atop another or arranged side by side, each with its own governing body whose chosen officials represented the members before the government, making them, in a sense, institutions of the state. It was what historians describe as a “corporate society,” a “society of orders” or an “estates society (sociedade estamental)”7 Slaves were invariably at the bottom in such a society, but free and freed blacks were another matter.

True, even by the end of the colonial period in 1822, and more so in the ensuing years, a new philosophy emerged, according to which every free person should be a citizen with equal rights to all the others. But on the whole and in practice, despite the new ideology, the acceptance of a multilayered social hierarchy continued to characterize the Brazilian polity throughout the 19th century. This hierarchical scheme provided a means of assuring social order, for it diffused social tension, allowing almost everyone to be (and feel) superior to someone else. There is no equivalent word in English usage for the Brazilian concept of condição (literally, condition), a term used to indicate a person’s social quality and place. Brazilians took it for granted that everyone could generally be ranked, as one 19th-century writer put it, “according to the order, scale, or category into which [they were] placed within society.”8

The nuanced distinctions of ranks restrained the threat that freedmen might otherwise have been thought to pose. This partially explains why the manumission of slaves could be encouraged: freed blacks would easily fit into one of many possible social niches (mostly, of course, at the lower end of the spectrum). Nor were all of them deemed equal to each other. Freedmen born in Africa could be clearly distinguished from those born in Brazil by such markers as their language or accent, bodily scarification, culinary practices, religion, or favorite clothes. And attention to variations of skin color located the free along a continuum of statuses, some being either darker or lighter than others.9 In short, no one—black or white—thought himself fully equal to anyone else; all met within a hierarchy and found themselves either above or below everybody else.

The principal institutions that built black community in the old society of estates were the religious associations called the irmandades. These lay brotherhoods and sisterhoods had, since the 16th century, provided a means for people of color, often from particular language and ethnic groups in Africa, to maintain solidarity. Like their white counterparts, these organizations were formed to venerate a particular saint and to perform charitable acts, but they also functioned as mutual-aid societies. Many were organized exclusively for blacks or for mulattos, some excluded slaves, and some did not allow the African born; others were open to all comers, provided they were of “good character.” Members elected their own officers from their own ranks. They received state recognition through royal charters, and their male and female leaders were seen as spokespersons for the black community before government agencies. Frequently they created funds to purchase the freedom of enslaved members. Irmandades usually had their seat in an established church where a side-chapel was dedicated to “their” saint; sometimes, however, they acquired enough funds to build their own church, as happened in Salvador with the Our Lady of the Rosary brotherhood. Religious processions were occasions to demonstrate the ranked order of society, with each irmandade in its pre-determined social place, and with each brother or sister ranked ahead or behind someone else according to the same principle.10

During the course of the 19th century, the irmandades gradually lost their place as central organizing institutions of society, although some of them retained considerable prestige.11 The new principles of equality and individualism may have undermined their appeal. With their decline, this opportunity to have a voice and be consulted by authorities disappeared. Irmandades had never spoken for all blacks before the state, but eventually they spoke for none.

Role in the Military

In colonial times, there had been two competing policies regarding the arming of free blacks and mulattos. On the one hand, laws were passed forbidding them from carrying any weapon. On the other, separate militia units—bearing arms—were organized for free blacks and free mulattos, commanded by officers of their own color. They played a major role in the armed conflicts that accompanied and succeeded the assertion of Brazil’s independence.12 In short, it was believed that some could loyally serve in this corporate body, one so typical of the system of estates, but that individual blacks outside such corporations were dangerous.

But during the tumultuous year surrounding the achievement of Brazil’s independence, the ambiguity of racial distinctions became particularly apparent. In the northeastern province of Pernambuco, for example, black militias at one point confronted the very white troops sent out from Portugal to oppose Brazilian independence. The equally white landowning elite that sought to throw off the colonial authorities had no choice but to welcome the colored militia units. At one point, the mulatto artillery captain Pedro da Silva Pedroso assumed control of the entire province. According to a Portuguese-born observer, he entered the provincial capital Recife as a victor backed by the “lowest blacks and mulattos.” Once the Portuguese troops were forced out of the country, however, Pedroso was deposed. His tenure, however brief, signifies the complexity of race relations in Brazil at that time.13

After Brazilian independence in 1822, militia units segregated by race were abolished in the name of egalitarianism, while in practice men of color were usually relegated to the lowest army ranks. This change was one provocation for a virtual race war that broke out in Salvador in 1837.14 And officials discriminated against free Afro-Brazilians in carrying out the military draft. Although under the law all men of a certain age were legally subject to forcible recruitment, the list of exempt occupations was long and left only the poor as truly subject to it. It was common practice for a judge or chief administrative officer of any locality to round up allegedly unsavory characters and “recruit” them into the army or navy. Although a judge who sent in three such recruits, in 1840, described each one in terms of his malfeasance, he noted in passing that two were mulattos and the other a black.15 The army’s rank and file was predominantly made up of Afro-Brazilians. In an 1827 list of 271 deserters, 222 of them (82%) were free men of color, and such examples could be multiplied at length. An Englishman in Rio de Janeiro in the late 1880s could still report that “the greater part of the privates in the army are Negroes or mulattoes [sic]”16

The fate of the draftee was a sorry one. Conditions in the army or navy remained so deplorable that in 1856 the Minister of War had to tell a provincial authority that recruits should be marched to Rio de Janeiro, “with all security, but not in irons.” Food was inadequate and lodging crowded; flogging common. So desertion may be better understood as a jailbreak, and the fact that Afro-Brazilians were disproportionately represented in the ranks can only be seen as the result of general prejudice and a state policy based on racism. And yet, the state relied on blacks to fight its wars, even as it feared them. During the war with Paraguay (1865–1870), for instance, some 4,000 slaves were purchased by the government and promised their freedom in exchange for risking their life in this dangerous service. Since the bulk of the ordinary recruits were also black and mulatto, one can conclude that color determined who would be used as cannon fodder in that long and bloody struggle. This was the prize offered to free men of color; this was the benefit of citizenship.17

Political Role

One of the most striking innovations of the liberal era was the introduction of national elections, anchored in the Constitution of 1824. Elections embody the idea of equal weight in political decisions, the concept of citizenship, a belief in the individual who could think and act independently. They occurred frequently for a large number of offices. Aside from an income requirement, which soon became minimal due to inflation, the Constitution made the ballot box fully accessible to illiterates, as well as to freedmen, making no distinction as to race or color, although of course only males could vote. The small income requirement was frequently ignored since the local bosses sought to gather as large a following as possible at election time and so display their influence visually. A freedman, however, could not be chosen as one of the Electors, who would then actually decide on members of parliament; this distinction visibly demonstrated and contributed to maintaining his place in the social hierarchy.18

An important component of the electorate in rural areas was made up of agregados, that is, farmers, who worked for themselves on the land of others without any contract.19 It was a common practice for landowners to grant poverty-stricken agricultural workers the right to raise subsistence crops on some outlying patch of their large estates, in exchange for which these tenants, at will, worked occasionally for the landowner and proffered allegiance at times of armed struggle against neighboring landowners as well as loyalty in electoral disputes.20 As one engineer described the situation on coffee plantations in 1879, much land was not used by the planter or his slaves:

[on the] large remaining area, . . . one notes agreat number of people who settle there with the permission of the landowner or planter and who are called agregados. These agregados, far outnumbering the slaves, are impoverished citizens . . . By their dependence on the owners, these agregados constitute an enslaved class, which, although not subject to any tribute in money or labor, . . . are so, nevertheless, by the electoral tax [i.e., their vote], which they pay at the right moment at the ballot box, or else risk eviction.21

Direct evidence on the color of these men is almost totally lacking. But from the fact that we know they were poor, that the poor were likely black or mulatto, and that most non-whites were poor, one can reasonably conclude that most agregados were black or mulatto. Outside the few 19th-century Brazilian cities, voters in the first stage of the electoral process were mostly agregados.

So non-whites participated in politics, but did so within a society of orders where the favors exchanged between patrons and clients dominated action. By voting for the local potentate, free blacks and other poor secured the privilege of tilling his land, and he got his authority, in turn, by delivering the vote to those still higher up in the political system. At the same time, local judges, police commissioners, officers in the National Guard, and other neighborhood authorities dealt with the poor and watched for signs of unrest. It was with these officials that non-whites negotiated on a daily basis. It was through them—mostly planters or ranchers, probably slave-owners—that free blacks encountered the state. And since there was no secret ballot and the protection of a patron was crucial to an individual’s success and even safety, it is not surprising that only the wealthy or well born were chosen as Electors. In these ways, the bulk of free Afro-Brazilians was largely excluded from participation in politics at a higher level, although, as we shall see, a few men of color did manage to succeed in politics.

The actions of blacks were circumscribed in more specific ways as well. In 1835, a major revolt, led mostly by African Muslims, erupted in the city of Salvador. It has often been portrayed as a revolt against slavery—but a large proportion of the participants were freedmen. Indeed it was precisely that it was led by men without masters that particularly frightened the white elites. It is, therefore, not surprising to discover that, once the revolt had been violently put down, stringent new laws were passed in the province (Bahia) that overtly relegated freed Africans to a legally inferior status. They were required to register and pay a head tax, forbidden to acquire real estate, and threatened with forcible deportation.22

An Ambiguous Status

With the principle of liberalism on one side and the heritage of hierarchical social order on the other, Brazilians with wealth and power were often puzzled as to the right course of action toward blacks. One example is a provincial law in Bahia regarding porters and stevedores who handled all goods loaded or off-loaded at the docks. The legislators took it for granted that these men were people of color, for the first article of the regulation specified that it would apply to all “whether slave, free, or freed.” They were henceforth to be registered in a single list and, in addition to other regulations, each was required to wear on his right wrist a copper bracelet engraved with his registry number. If anyone failed to comply with these rules, his masters, if he were a slave, would be fined; if free, he would be forcibly employed at public works for a period deemed equivalent to that fine.23 No similar legislation applied to occupations in which Euro-Brazilians predominated; on the other hand, ostensibly these men were singled out because of their occupation, not because of their color.

The result of this new rule was immediate and shocking: no workers turned up “whether on land or sea.” The justice of the peace reported that even the customs house had no lighters at its disposal. The work stoppage, he said, created “a terrible upset in commerce and despair among those who need to transport what they require.” The captains of vessels in the bay threatened to leave without unloading the goods they had brought to the port. The chief provincial authority soon had to admit that “there is no law that obliges someone to pursue this or that means of earning a livelihood,” and suspended enforcement of the law until the provincial assembly could review the issue. It never did. The strike had been successful.24 It is worth noting that these blacks, free, freed, and enslaved together, did not strike for higher wages or better working conditions, but for autonomy and, apparently, for recognition of their corporate position within this society of orders.

Of course, in other contexts, the distinction between enslaved and free or freed blacks remained. Even then, however, there was a tendency among whites to see free Afro-Brazilians, especially those of darker color, as if they were slaves. It was not uncommon for people of low status, regardless of color, to be flogged or kept in stocks, but it is symptomatic that when, in 1802, an official was accused of torturing a freed black man (preto forro), he dismissed the accusation saying that all he had done was keep him in wooden stocks from Thursday until Sunday morning and then sent him to join some slaves in sweeping the square in front of the jail. He saw no contradiction between the man’s free status and his treatment as if he were a slave, since their color was the same.25

Re-enslavement was a constant fear among the freed and even among those born free. When the government announced plans in 1851—the year after the effective end of the slave trade from Africa—to carry out a census, many Afro-Brazilians concluded re-enslavement was its true purpose. In various parts of the Northeast “free mulattos, blacks, and half-breeds [pardos, pretos, e cabras],” formed groups of 400, 200, 80, “all armed” to resist.26 Plans for the census had to be abandoned. Regardless of whether any such program of re-enslavement was actually contemplated, it is significant that blacks believed this a likely action. They can only have come to that conclusion by their reading of official attitudes toward themselves.

As well, if they acted violently to avoid re-enslavement, it means they saw a real difference between their own status and that of slaves. This point may seem obvious, but it is often overlooked by those who wish to portray the fate of the free colored by equating it to that of slaves in every respect. The historical actors themselves knew better. The free could and did legally buy and sell real property and bequeath it to others. Whereas sumptuary laws were sometimes passed to prevent those of lower status from displaying their wealth too ostentatiously, no law prevented them from holding it. (Poverty, of course, did prevent most of the freed or free people of color from acquiring such property.) As well, the free could legally testify in court and often did so. And most of all, they could move from place to place. Their status was markedly different from that of the slave, even if lowly.

Occasionally a white man could be made subordinate to a free man of color. In one case from late colonial times a black (preto) muleteer was placed in charge of a royal mule train. The viceroy found it necessary to stress that, despite his color, he should be “treated with manners . . . making sure he is content and satisfied, providing him with food for himself and the slaves who accompany him, since this is the only way that the service can be completed in time with necessary regularity.” The viceroy recognized that other officials were likely to mistreat the muleteer if not forewarned.27 On another occasion, when a white soldier refused to take orders from a mulatto sergeant, saying that “he could not stand to serve in a company under a black [negro],” an officer spoke up for the sergeant saying that, “although he is a light-skinned mulatto [pardo disfarçado], he is a man of exemplary conduct,” while the complaining soldier was a bad lot.28 Presumably, if the sergeant had been darker and the soldier better behaved, the complaint would have been taken more seriously; the defense was not that race was irrelevant.

The fate of Afro-Brazilians who aspired to better their situation was not easy. In one district, no one would agree to serve as a local justice-of-the-peace because the notary-scribe was a light-skinned mulatto. He was so light skinned that it had to be explained that he was a mulatto and so understood and reputed by his own people and his parents and grandparents [homen pardo e por tal tido e reputado pellos delle e das sua ascendencia]. Another man who sought the position of scribe and notary of a town council elsewhere was denied the appointment on the grounds that “he is a mulatto, . . . son of a woman who was born a slave. This circumstance alone seems enough to produce some intrigues between him and the officers of the council . . . who have some vanity respecting genealogy and know that all the scribes of other towns in this district are white men.”29

So we see that, although the state sometimes played the role of protector, most of the time its institutions reinforced the prejudices and privileges of whites, acquiesced in maintaining a hierarchy based on color, and acted to hinder the absorption of free Afro-Brazilians into society on an equal basis with Euro-Brazilians. Still, it is worth noting that some of the freeborn and freed managed to secure a modicum of financial security. In a downtown section of Rio de Janeiro city, a list of sixty-three small grocery store owners (quitandeiros) included twenty-eight whites (eight born in Portugal) and thirty-five blacks (twenty-seven born in Africa). Thirty-five of them were men and twenty-eight women.30

Women and Men

From the accumulated experiences of the freeborn and the freed, we can garner some sense of what freedom differently meant to women and men. The differences begin with patterns of work. Stevedores and other port workers were invariably male (forming their own work teams and bargaining collectively), whereas household work—cooking, washing clothes, cleaning, and taking care of children—was almost entirely done by women, typically in small groups or even alone. In fact, the imagined occupation of a freed woman was domestic service.31 But many, many women worked as street vendors, even provoking complaints in Salvador that they “impede the public use” of the city’s thoroughfares. They held their own, allying themselves with others who worked on the same streets, and then forcefully defending their territory—perhaps with more passion than organization. Despite their work, vendors cared for their children, taking them with them as they worked.32 Nor were women politically inactive: 14 percent of those put on trial after the failed 1835 revolt of Muslims in Salvador were women.33 Butchers were all men, but women stand out as owners or renters of market stalls. Still, setting up an independent shop required capital—either saved or borrowed—something women of color succeeded in doing less often than men, although some freed women did acquire significant wealth, including slaves of their own.34

Slave women were more often freed by their owners than were men. An enslaved woman would have been much more likely to work indoors and have close contact with her owner’s family. Although an owner had more to lose financially by freeing a male than a female slave because of the higher demand for males in plantation agriculture and mining, female slaves were also used extensively in both these economic sectors.35 Female slaves were often freed upon the death of the owner according to the terms of a will. Sometimes they were granted a conditional freedom, calling for subsequent payments in cash. Among slaves who won their freedom by fleeing from their owners, men predominated, as women with children probably hesitated to take the risk. We know of at least one freed woman who paid for the freedom of her male partner and future husband. And in some cases it was the emotional attachment of a male owner for a particular female slave that led to her freedom.36

Outside the structures of the state a goodly number of female Afro-Brazilians achieved financial success in trade. Ambulatory street vendors in the city of Salvador were usually black women, who sold food, clothes, and trinkets door-to-door or from temporary stands on city streets. Foreign observers often commented on these hawkers and their colorful clothes and attention-getting cries. Many of them eventually acquired enough to purchase their own freedom.37 One of them, Ana de São José da Trindade, had been born in Africa, brought to Brazil at a young age, put to work as a street vendor, and eventually paid for her own freedom. At her death in 1823, this former slave left a three-story house built of dressed stone, which she owned free-and-clear, along with its mahogany furniture and fine china. She also owned nine slaves, two of whom she sent out each day to sell food on the street. Along with her gold and diamond-studded jewelry were the records of money owed to her by other traders. She had moved from being a slave to being a middle-class householder, slave owner, and successful businesswoman. Although most such women remained poor, Ana was by no means alone in her trajectory.38

Other women asserted themselves and secured a modicum of status for themselves and theirs by skillfully using the tools of the bureaucratic system itself. They mastered the lineaments of the legal system, even when they had to rely on a literate scribe to make their case. Many went to court to assert their right to a promised freedom.39 Relying on a scribe, one freed black mother wrote to her daughter’s owner offering to pay to free her.40

Some Who Made It in Politics

Some mulattos rose significantly within the political system. Many observers have commented on the well-known Brazilian technique of co-optation, in which some Afro-Brazilians are allowed to succeed, thus “proving” that Brazil is a racial democracy. As one politician maintained in 1880, “We enjoy full democracy in Brazil . . . We live with everyone; we sit the freedman at our table and rely more on the trustworthy freedman than on many Brazilian citizens.”41 Trustworthiness is the key. To those who demonstrated loyalty and commitment to the general contours of that society, much could be given—but only to them.

This same phenomenon can be looked at differently, that is, from the point of view of the upwardly mobile individual who took advantage of every opportunity offered by the ideology of the dominant class, without necessarily buying into that ideology. Such actions may not spring from the success of the dominant group’s attempt to impose a cultural hegemony, but from a clear-eyed weighing of alternatives on the part of the subaltern. In either case, there are several examples of freeborn mulattos (as distinct from freedmen or free-born blacks), especially light-skinned ones, who succeeded in 19th-century Brazil. Although these are exceptions to the general rule, they display the outer boundaries of the possible, for some of them not only made it into politics but even into positions of real power.

Perhaps the best known was Antônio Pereira Rebouças (1798–1880), born in the province of Bahia, the legitimate son of a Portuguese tailor and a mulatta ex-slave. With only an elementary formal education, he taught himself Greek, Latin, and French, and he read voraciously. A man of unflagging energy, he became clerk to a lawyer and eventually learned so much law that his employer recommended he be allowed to take the bar exam—which he easily passed. By 1821–1822, when Brazil’s independence from Portugal lay in the balance, with the Portuguese army in the capital city of Salvador hoping to re-assert colonial rule, Rebouças astutely sided with the planter elite plotting independence and not with the Portuguese officials who were then offering freedom to those slaves who joined the loyalists. Rebouças was named member and secretary of the planter-led insurgent council meeting in an interior town, and, when the Portuguese were finally driven out, he was rewarded with the prestigious Order of the Cruzeiro and named acting president of the neighboring province of Sergipe, becoming the preeminent authority and representative of the Emperor, ruling over many, many whites. When, in 1837, radical elements in Salvador declared a republic, he decisively sided with the forces of order and with the Emperor, even though the war had quickly become a racial one, pitting white planters against free blacks and mulattos of the city. Once the legalist forces regained control of the city, they slaughtered over 1,000 men, mostly men of color, impressing another 1,500 into the regular army to serve in other provinces, and sending a ship-load of freed Africans (together with one mulatto and a Brazilian-born black) to Africa.42 There is no record that Rebouças regretted his choice or saw those black and mulatto victims of repression as his fellows. He went on to serve in both the provincial and national legislatures, taking an active part in politics until his death in 1880. Although late in life he advocated the abolition of slavery, he had himself at one time or another owned several slaves. In these ways, he acted as others of his class did, and for us to expect race solidarity to predominate must surely be a form of racism itself.43

A more egregious example of a person of African descent—although remote—who made it in the white world and defended slavery is João Maurício Wanderley, Baron of Cotegipe (1815–1889). His grandson and biographer alleges an Indian great-grandmother and other 16th-century Indian ancestors, but contemporary abolitionist newspapers accused him of turning his back on his own kind.44 He was the son of a prominent land-owning family and he came, through marriage, to own several more sugar plantations with numerous slaves.45 He entered local politics soon after finishing law school and was elected to the national congress at the age of 27. By 1853, he had entered the cabinet and was named a Senator (a life-long post) in 1856. Other cabinet appointments followed, culminating in the prime ministership in 1885. In this post, he successfully turned back the effort to include more liberal provisions in a bill designed to free slaves once they turned 65. When, in the last months of 1887, slaves took matters into their own hands by fleeing the plantations en masse, he advocated harsh punitive measures. He accused the abolitionists of being anarchists and got the police in the city of Rio de Janeiro to disrupt one of their meetings. After the resulting riot led to his dismissal as prime minister, he continued to argue vehemently against any move to end slavery and, after its abolition in May, 1888, he proposed that slave owners be compensated.46 If he ever acknowledged his color, he certainly showed no solidarity with the slaves. In this he was not alone. It is generally believed that most mulattos preferred to assert their European background whenever possible and to identify with whites insofar as they were allowed to do so.47

Francisco Salles Torres Homem (1812–1876), a politician and newspaper editor, was less conservative. He is best known for his early virulent attacks on the monarchy and his later abrupt switch, when he became its staunch defender. For such a somersault he was rewarded with a place in the cabinet as finance minister in 1858 (a post he occupied again in 1870), and the title of Viscount de Inhomirim. According to one author, writing in 1894, his mother was a black street vendor; but another contemporary limited himself to saying he came from “a family of modest means.”48 He was particularly known for his conservative fiscal principles, which endeared him to the planter elite and offended the emerging group of industrialists. Unlike Cotegipe, however, this mulatto, although far from an abolitionist, did argue for emancipation and supported the “Free Womb Law” of 1871, which declared free the children born henceforth to slave mothers.49

A more critical stand was taken by the mulatto Francisco Otaviano de Almeida Rosa (1826–1889), a prominent publicist and reform politician. The son of a Rio de Janeiro physician, he graduated from the São Paulo law school and was named secretary to the governor of the province of Rio de Janeiro at the age of 22. Five years later, he was elected to the national Chamber of Deputies, a position he secured again on various occasions, after which he then entered the life-tenured Senate. As a vehicle for his liberal ideas, he used the Correio Mercantil, a daily newspaper that he edited. He was sometimes called upon to head difficult diplomatic missions abroad. He had a hand in almost every liberal advance of the era and contributed powerfully to the passage, in 1871, of the “Free Womb Law.” He later became an outspoken abolitionist.50

None of these men offended the powers that be. Some, like Cotegipe, allied themselves unequivocally with the forces of conservatism while others advocated reform. All of them participated in government and were allowed to do so probably because they were careful not to threaten its fundamental principles.

Critics of the Status Quo

A distinct group, however, especially as the Empire itself began to stumble and alienate some powerful people, took more radical stands. In doing so, they often found an outlet in the press, thus helping to form a civil society that debated public issues outside the administration. Editorial offices often became virtual political clubs where men gathered to discuss issues and policies. These institutions emerged from a growing urban middle class trained in the medical and law schools, the pharmaceutical college, the engineering school, or the military academy, and not so much from the planter class. Such men could make a career through talent, hard work, and luck. Among them were several mulattos who took up the cause of abolition, and their role merits attention. What characterizes them as a group was that they did not enter the apparatus of the state but remained outside it, criticizing it. They were successful in pressuring politicians to change the law, and, in doing so, they moved skillfully not only to occupy the space the state allowed them but also to amplify it. Neither repression nor co-optation would silence them.

Three examples are revealing. One of them was José Carlos do Patrocínio (1853–1905). The son of a slave-owning priest planter and a free black fruit vendor, he began work in a charity hospital at age 15 and eventually got a pharmacy degree. But he could not secure a position as a pharmacist, probably because of his color, and so sought employment as a tutor in the families of well-off whites. In one of these households, he was well received and ended up marrying the daughter of his employers. Meanwhile, he had begun writing for the newspapers and, when he quit one such job because of his disgust at the editor’s conservatism, his father-in-law bought him a paper of his own (A Gazeta da Tarde). Patrocínio transformed it into the premier abolitionist newspaper of the time, using as his motto, “Slavery Is Theft!”51

Another mulatto abolitionist, André Rebouças (1838–1898), was the son of the Rebouças mentioned earlier. From his father, he heard tales of how the father had suffered racial discrimination but kept his peace in order not to acknowledge the slight. André had entered the military academy and was a student there when it was transformed into Brazil’s first engineering school in 1858. After graduation, he traveled to Europe to complete his professional training. He examined bridges, canals, tunnels, railroads, dock works, and factory buildings, seeking out the leading engineers of his day. Returning to Brazil, he founded or directed a number of enterprises, ranging from railways to harbor works and was employed as an engineer in the construction of wharves and water works. He also taught at the engineering school. Rebouças believed Brazil should export nothing but manufactured goods, instead of remaining a supplier of foodstuffs and raw materials. He early joined an abolitionist society and helped organize an abolitionist group among the engineering students.52 He was one of the few abolitionists to look beyond the end of slavery: He proposed a vast land reform, calling simultaneously for the “emancipation of the slave and his regeneration through land ownership.”53

A more radical example is that of Luís Gama (1830–1882). His mother was an African-born freed woman who participated in the revolt of 1835 in Salvador that Antônio Rebouças had helped quell. She was deported to Africa as punishment, leaving her son behind. When his Portuguese father fell on hard times, he illegally sold Luís into slavery, and the boy was taken to Rio de Janeiro and then to São Paulo city, where he worked as a house servant. Befriended by a boarder, he learned to read. He ran away at age 17, joined the army, rebelled at its discipline—which reminded him of slavery—and was dishonorably discharged. He then found employment as a typesetter and soon began to write articles himself, signing his column, “Afro.” Eventually, he became a newspaper editor, encouraging those who advocated the complete abolition of slavery. He also successfully proved in court that he had been born free. In doing this, he began to learn something about the law and soon put his knowledge to work for other Afro-Brazilians. In the 1880s, he was especially successful in getting the courts to acknowledge that all Africans imported to Brazil after 1831—when Brazil ostensibly made the overseas slave trade illegal—were therefore free along with their descendants.54

Although these men were exceptional, they demonstrate both the complex and routine ways in which the Brazilian elite dealt with people of color. The state was deeply involved in maintaining and perpetuating racial discrimination. At the same time, and as one way of doing so, it admitted into the ranks of the powerful some light-skinned mulattos. This practice helped in the effort to construct the myth of a racial democracy in which a person’s color was allegedly not held against anyone.

A very different story reveals the limits of this toleration: Apulcho de Castro proudly identified himself as a “black” and “negro” in the four-page newspaper that he owned, edited, and for which he wrote most of the text. His paper, O Corsário, founded in 1880, became famous for its biting critiques of public and not-so-public malfeasance. Published three times a week, it soon attracted a large audience, selling some 20,000 copies. Apulcho’s approach was fearless, even reckless, and he sometimes used language not usually found in print. And Apulcho did not hesitate to turn his scathing attention onto the rich and the powerful. His eventual demise stemmed directly from the hostility of the Emperor’s Palace Guard, a cavalry unit offended by Apulcho’s unremitting criticism of one particular officer who ran up huge bills at a local tavern that he refused to pay. The Guard’s first reaction, on October 9, 1883, was to break into Apulcho’s printing shop at night and destroy his equipment. Apulcho, however, did not let up, using a borrowed printing press to bring out another issue describing the incident in some detail. He also reported that the officers had shouted, “Where’s the negro?” mockingly concluding that it took 100 officers to pursue one black man.

On the afternoon of October 25, 1883, understanding that his life was in danger, Apulcho sought protection at the central office of the civil police. In response to a request from the police, the army commander sent an aide to the station to accompany Apulcho as he left the police station. But as soon as Apulcho and this aide had entered a carriage in front of the police station, a group of men in disguise stopped it, entered it, and stabbed Apulcho to death, possibly injuring the aide as well. Widespread protests resulted, as crowds moved through the streets for the next four days, breaking windows, smashing street lamps, and hurling pavement stones at their pursuers. Once order had been restored and hundreds jailed, a formal government investigation began. Its conclusion, six months later, was that eleven army officers were responsible. After another eight months, however, the public prosecutor reported that witnesses contradicted each other and there was insufficient evidence to bring anyone to trial. Apulcho paid with his life because he did not play by the rules in this society of orders; he did not defer to those of higher rank.55

After Slavery

If, during slavery times, the bulk of free blacks and mulattos were discriminated against at every turn, this was even truer once slavery was finally abolished in 1888. The declaration of a Republic the next year culminated the process of instituting an officially liberal state in Brazil. The new constitution was modeled on that of the United States, and Rui Barbosa, the paladin of liberalism, was in its first cabinet. But already in 1881, when liberals had instituted a new electoral system with direct elections for congress, they so restricted the suffrage as to exclude the poor and even the lower middle class, disenfranchising most of those who had been able to vote. Subsequently, the law imposed a literacy requirement for voting. Because only 21 percent of the free could read and write (1872), the exclusion bore even deeper. Even in the capital city, where education was most advanced, only 60 percent of the adult population could read and write as late as 1906.56 So Afro-Brazilians were effectively denied citizenship, all in the name of liberal reform, another issue that had much incensed Apulcho de Castro.

In addition to legal provisions, the fate of Afro-Brazilians worsened. For now that all were legally equal, the rich found it necessary to search for other means to maintain inequality. They found the answer in racist doctrine. Before the abolition of slavery, there had been relatively little overt and systematic racist thought expressed in Brazil. Slavery was seen as a necessary evil, not a positive good. Hardly any writer argued that slavery benefited the blacks or that slavery was the only fate to which they were suited. True, there was an implied racism in the positions of several abolitionists who argued that slavery should be ended because it kept away white European immigrants who would, even by their sexual mixing with blacks, improve the Brazilian “race.”57

But now Afro-Brazilians faced an intensified challenge, namely, the use of public funds to subsidize massive immigration of Europeans to take their place in field and factory. Following on earlier small-scale experiments, the government paid for the passage of thousands of immigrants, housed and fed them upon arrival, and managed a placement office to find them employment. Nothing was spent, meanwhile, on the education or placement of the ex-slave, not to mention his transport or food and lodging. As well, ex-slaves demanded too much in exchange for their labor: They desired to be independent, and they especially insisted that their women and children should not labor for someone else. On both counts the immigrant underbid them. As a planter-politician shrewdly observed in 1888, “It is evident that we need laborers . . . in order to increase the competition among them so that salaries will be lowered by means of the law of supply and demand,” and a few years later another planter admitted that European immigrants “contributed greatly to rescue our planters from their dependence on the freedmen.”58 Supply-and-demand would now substitute for the stocks and the whip. Meanwhile, in the city, black workers found it hard going for the same reason: the state had financed the importation of cheap laborers from Europe.

Eventually these immigrants began to follow the example of the ex-slaves and demand more for their labor. Strikes broke out. Sometimes, as in 1891, Afro-Brazilians were brought in as strike breakers, then dismissed soon after. Not surprisingly, the labor movement in São Paulo was principally led by immigrants, although in Rio de Janeiro some mulatto leaders emerged. But by the 1920s, labor leaders in São Paulo were at last beginning to recognize blacks and mulattos as fellow workers to be recruited into union ranks. The state itself began to see the immigrant as a threat, while the Brazilian “national,” that is, man of color, was now increasingly described as loyal and hard working. Finally, in 1927, the program of subsidized immigration was suspended.59

Looking back, several points are clear. Free men and women of color have been present in large numbers in Brazil for a very long time, not just since the end of slavery. The state played an active part in discriminating against Afro-Brazilians, albeit occasionally co-opting the most loyal and agreeable among them. This practice enabled a handful of light-skinned mulattos to rise socially or politically, and eventually some of them worked to end slavery. But far from being the land of racial democracy, Brazil suffered and continues to suffer the heavy burden of being a racially divided nation.

Discussion of the Literature

Over decades of scholarship, the angle of vision of historians who wrote about free and freed blacks in Brazil has shifted. From seeing slaves only as property or victims, historians more recently came to see them as persons who fashioned their own identity. As historians asked new questions about both slaves and free blacks, they sought new sources and proposed new interpretations. Because slaves in Brazil were so numerous and slavery lasted so long, historians have sometimes focused attention on them, overlooking freed and free-born blacks, despite their emphatic presence long before the end of slavery.

For a long time scholars relied on 19th-century accounts by foreign travelers and contemporary middle-class Brazilians who described slavery and slaves. These observers understood slaves as the “other,” and believed that slave family life was non-existent and that slaves were licentious and random in their sexual relations. When historians first turned to an examination of the slave past, many relied almost exclusively on such accounts as their source, tending sometimes to blame not slavery but the slaves themselves and their imagined African culture for the alleged lack of family life. Inevitably this point of view influenced their notions about freed and freeborn blacks. Although some authors made sure to attribute such behavior not to race but to culture, the result was the same: Gilberto Freyre, for instance, a highly influential Brazilian cultural historian with close connections to North American intellectual currents, referred as late as 1946 to the “animality” of Negroes,60 and Roger Bastide, an equally knowledgeable French sociologist claimed in 1960 that, in the days of slavery, “a woman would sleep now with one man, now with another, as the fancy took her.”61 In 1966, Emília Viotti da Costa, a renowned historian, relied specifically on 19th-century European travelers’ accounts to say that “sexual promiscuity” characterized the life of slaves.62

Later historians began to use quantitative sources and archival manuscript materials to investigate these topics, and what they found was a quite different historical reality. Slaves on coffee plantations, for instance, typically lived in family groups, and a very large number of slave children grew up with both their father and mother present. Two early steps in this new historiographical direction were a 1969 chapter by Herbert S. Klein and a 1975 doctoral dissertation by Robert Slenes.63 Other historians have explored the same issue in different places and different times to find that a surprisingly large number of slaves married free or freed persons.64 As for the freeborn and the freed, a good example of this new approach to family connections is a work by B. J. Barickman and Martha Few, published in 2004. They explore the diversity of family patterns in two rural parishes in Bahia province, and show that a large proportion of slaves formed families into which children were born and brought up.65

Mulattos drew the attention of historians as a distinct category. It is now recognized that, although it was held against them, their color was only one of several considerations as people classified and located others at the time. Keila Grinberg, in her 2002 biography of an early 19th-century mulatto political figure, explored the complex ambiguity of his life as he simultaneously defended the rights of free persons of color and opposed revolutionary action to secure those rights, believing that an orderly state was the only arena within which civil rights could be established for all.66

Several North American authors drew comparisons between Brazil and the United States, two countries with a large population of blacks, as a way to highlight the distinctive patterns of each society. In 1972, Carl Degler did just that in Neither Black nor White. Although, for the sake of the comparison, he over-simplified the Brazilian case by stressing not the multiple ranks of color but a tripartite one of whites, blacks, and mulattos, it was a path-breaking work.67

Last wills and testaments in 19th-century Brazil often wandered far from the subject of property and inheritance and gave voice to deep emotions, memories, relationships, and hopes for the future. These documents are all the more fascinating when they were prepared by those who had once been slaves but had then been freed. In a Masters’ thesis submitted to the federal university in Salvador in 1979 (published in 1988), Maria Inês Côrtes de Oliveira presented the results of her systematic study of 472 such wills. Aside from its dense quantitative information, the thesis is rich in reflecting the human relationships freed Africans had formed, the friendships they had established, the designated recipients of their goods, and the religious beliefs they had absorbed.68

João José Reis, perhaps more than any other historian, has contributed to our seeing the ambiguous complexities of the distinction between free and slave. A highly creative and richly researched historical work on free and freed Africans in the city of Salvador is his Slave Rebellion in Brazil. He describes in striking detail the political and cultural context for the 1835 Muslim revolt in the city of Salvador. The participants in this angry outbreak were mostly freed Africans, and Reis clarifies the context for their anger and explores the meanings of their actions.69 No slave does more to demonstrate the complexities or confound our expectations of what it meant to become a freedman than does Rufino José Maria, whose trajectory is discussed by Reis and two other historians—Flávio dos Santos Gomes, and Marcus J. M. de Carvalho—in O alufá Rufino.70 African-born, enslaved, and transported to Salvador during a tumultuous time in the early 1820s, Rufino became acquainted with the coast of Brazil as a slave in Bahia, Rio Grande do Sul, and Rio de Janeiro, before buying his freedom. He became a man of the world, hiring on as a cook on a slave ship that crisis-crossed the Atlantic, until he went to Sierra Leone to study the ways and beliefs of Islam, eventually becoming a Muslim cleric. Reis further explores the world of freedmen through the life of Domingos Sodré who, besides gaining his own freedom, bought and freed numerous slaves, married, practiced the African religious tradition known as candomblé, and was accused of witchcraft.71 Taken as whole, these works enrich our understanding of a multifaceted society and complex culture.

Primary Sources

The public archives of Brazil—at the national, state, and municipal level—are rich depositories of historical source material. Archivists are generally welcoming and courteous. Any archive containing 19th-century materials will almost surely have information on free blacks, although this is not a category under which they would be filed, just as it was not a category in the minds of those who created these documents. Digitalization of the catalogs is common, although their access and use can be problematic. Material on free blacks is naturally greater in archives located in places characterized by widespread slave ownership.

Some of the major Brazilian archives are these: Arquivo Nacional, Rio de Janeiro; Arquivo Púbico do Estado da Bahia, Salvador; Arquivo Público Mineiro, Belo Horizonte; Arquivo Público Estadual de Pernambuco, Recife; Arquivo Público do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Niteroi; Arquivo do Estado de São Paulo, São Paulo; Arquivo Geral da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro; and Arquivo Municipal de Salvador, Salvador.

Two major libraries have extensive manuscript materials: Biblioteca Nacional, Rio de Janeiro and Biblioteca Mário de Andrade, São Paulo.

Further Reading

Degler, Carl N. Neither Black Nor White: Slavery and Race Relations in Brazil and the United States. New York: Macmillan, 1971.Find this resource:

Franco, Maria Sylvia de Carvalho. Homens livres na ordem escravocrata. 2d ed. São Paulo, Brazil: Ática, 1974.Find this resource:

Kraay, Hendrik. “Slavery, Citizenship, and Military Service in Brazil’s Mobilization for the Paraguayan War.” Slavery and Abolition 18.3 (1997): 228–256.Find this resource:

Lauderdale Graham, Sandra. House and Street: The Domestic World of Servants and Masters in Nineteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1988.Find this resource:

Oliveira, Maria Inês Côrtes de. O liberto: O seu mundo e os outros: Salvador, 1790–1890. São Paulo, Brazil: Corrupio and CNPq, 1988.Find this resource:

Reis, João José. Death Is a Festival: Funeral Rites and Rebellion in Nineteenth-Century Brazil. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.Find this resource:

Russell-Wood, A. J. R. The Black Man in Slavery and Freedom in Colonial Brazil. New York: St. Martin’s, 1982.Find this resource:

Skidmore, Thomas E. Black Into White: Race and Nationality in Brazilian Thought. 2d ed. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993.Find this resource:


(1.) Herbert S. Klein, “Nineteenth-Century Brazil” and “Appendix,” in Neither Slave Nor Free: The Freedman of African Descent in the Slave Societies of the New World, ed. David W. Cohen and Jack P. Greene (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1972), 314, 339. I say, “at least,” since the census categories “pardo” and “preto” probably do not include all persons “of color.” One census taker noted in 1849 that such data were imprecise because of the “inaccuracy with which each person reported on him or herself,” Haddock Lobo quoted in Thomas H. Holloway, “Haddock Lobo e o recenseamento do Rio de Janeiro de 1849,” unpublished paper (n.d.).

(2.) A. J. R. Russell-Wood, The Black Man in Slavery and Freedom in Colonial Brazil (New York: St. Martin’s, 1982), 48–49; Mapa geral dos habitantes da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro, 1834, Arquivo Nacional, IJ-6 169; Mary C. Karasch, Slave Life in Rio de Janeiro, 1808–1850 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987), 368, Table 11.12. See also A. C. de C. M. Saunders, A Social History of Black Slaves and Freedmen in Portugal, 1441–1555 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 60.

(3.) Henry Koster, Travels in Brazil in the Years from 1809 to 1815 (London: Longman Hurst, Reese, Orme & Brown, 1816), II, 191–196, 215; Robert Walsh, Notices of Brazil in 1828 and 1829, 2 vols. (Boston: Richardson, Lord, & Holbrook, 1831), II, 342, 350–351, 365–366; Daniel Parish Kidder and James Cooley Fletcher, Brazil and the Brazilians Portrayed in Historical and Descriptive Sketches (Philadelphia: Childs & Peterson, 1857), 133; and Mary Wilhelmine Williams, “The Treatment of Negro Slaves in the Brazilian Empire: A Comparison with the United States of America,” Journal of Negro History 15.3 (1930): 328–334.

(4.) Stuart B. Schwartz, “The Manumission of Slaves in Colonial Brazil: Bahia, 1684–1745,” Hispanic American Historical Review 54.4 (1974): 623; Kátia M. de Queirós Mattoso, “A propósito de cartas de alforria na Bahia, 1779–1850,” Anais de História 4 (1972): 25–52. On how manumission for cash was nevertheless considered a favor see “Inventário, Antonio da Cruz Velloso, 1811,” Arquivo Público do Estado da Bahia, Seção Judiciária, 04/1709/2179/02, fols. 50–52.

(5.) Warren Dean, Rio Claro: A Brazilian Plantation System, 1820–1920 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1976), 124–136.

(6.) Mary C. Karasch, Slave Life in Rio de Janeiro, 342–352; Camillia Cowling, 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), 123–125, 135–140, and 142–144. Women accounted for 54 percent of the freed in 1849; see Holloway, “Haddock Lobo e o recenseamento,” Table 9. Cf. Schwartz, “Manumission of Slaves.”

(7.) Roland Mousnier, Social Hierarchies 1450 to the Present, trans. Peter Evans (New York: Schocken Books, 1973), reprint, French ed. 1969; and Florestan Fernandes, A revolução burguesa no Brasil: Ensaio de interpretação sociológica (Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 1975). On some specific institutions in Brazil see Patricia Ann Aufderheide, “Order and Violence:Social Deviance and Social Control in Brazil, 1780–1840” (PhD Diss., University of Minnesota, 1976); A. J. R. Russell-Wood, Fidalgos and Philanthropists: The Santa Casa Da Misericórdia of Bahia, 1550–1755 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968); and João José Reis, Death Is a Festival: Funeral Rites and Rebellion in Nineteenth-Century Brazil (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003).

(8.) Luiz Peixoto de Lacerda Werneck, Idéias sobre colonização precedidas de uma sucinta exposição dos princípios que regem a população (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Laemmert, 1855), 28. For Portuguese and Brazilian notions on this matter, see Silvia Hunold Lara, Fragmentos setecentistas: Escravidão, cultura e poder na América portuguesa (São Paulo, Brazil: Companhia das Letras, 2007), chap. 2 and 3. Hierarchy has served the same purpose elsewhere; see Louis Dumont, Homo Hierarchicus: An Essay on the Caste System, trans. Mark Sainsbury (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 18 and elsewhere.

(9.) On the hierarchy of color in Brazil, see Camillia Cowling, Conceiving Freedom: Women of Color, 178, 191, and 193. The classic study is Carl N. Degler, Neither Black Nor White: Slavery and Race Relations in Brazil and the United States (New York: Macmillan, 1971), 88–112, although he fails to stress sufficiently the multiple ranks of color, simplifying his scheme into a tripartite one of whites, blacks, and mulattos. Cf. Marvin Harris, Patterns of Race in the Americas (New York: Walker, 1964).

(10.) Patricia Ann Mulvey, “The Black Lay Brotherhoods of Colonial Brazil” (PhD Diss., City University of New York, 1976); A. J. R. Russell-Wood, Black Man in Slavery and Freedom, 128–160; Saunders, A Social History of Black Slaves and Freedmen in Portugal, 1441–1555, 150–156; Maria Inês Côrtes de Oliveira, O liberto: O seu mundo e os outros: Salvador, 1790–1890, Baianada, 7 (São Paulo and Brasília: Corrupio and CNPq, 1988), 84.

(11.) Maria Inês Côrtes de Oliveira, O liberto: O seu mundo, 84.

(12.) Hendrik Kraay, “Identidade racial na política, Bahia, 1790–1840: O caso dos Henriques,” and Luiz Geraldo Silva, “Negros patriotas, raça e identidadesocial na formação do estado nação (Pernambuco),” both in Brasil: Formação do estado e da nação, ed. Istvan Jancsó (São Paulo: HUCITEC and FAPESP, 2003), 521–546 and 497–520 respectively; Luiz Mott, “A escravatura: A propósito de uma representação a El-Rei sobre a escravatura no Brasil,” Revista do Instituto de Estudos Brasileiros 14 (1973): 129; and F. W. O. Morton, “The Military and Society in Bahia, 1800–1821,” Journal of Latin American Studies 7.2 (1975): 263–268.

(13.) Denis Antônio de Mendonça Bernardes, “A gente ínfima do povo e outras gentes na Confederação do Equador,” in Revoltas, motins, revoluções: Homens livres pobres e libertos no Brasil do século XIX, ed. Mônica Duarte Dantas (São Paulo: Alameda, 2011), 141–145 (145 quoted). For the general context see Marcus J. M. Carvalho, “Os negros armados pelos brancos e suas independências no Nordeste (1817–1848),” in Independência: História e historiografia, ed. Istvan Jancsó (São Paulo: HUCITEC and FAPESP, 2005), 881–914; and see Marcus J. M. Carvalho, “O outro lado da Independência: Quilombos, negros e pardos em Pernambuco (Brazil), 1817–23,” Luso-Brazilian Review 43.1 (2006): 1–30.

(14.) Hendrik Kraay, “‘As Terrifying as Unexpected’: The Bahian Sabinada, 1837–1838,” Hispanic American Historical Review 72.4 (1992): 501–527.

(15.) Juiz Municipal de Cachoeira to Presidente da Província da Bahia, Cachoeira, 1 June 1840, Arquivo Público do Estado da Bahia, M.2273.

(16.) Morton, “Military and Society,” 258; and Hastings Charles Dent, A Year in Brazil, with Notes on the Abolition of Slavery, the Finances of the Empire, Religion, Meteorology, Natural History, Etc. (London: Kegan, Paul, Trench, 1886), 287.

(17.) Ministro da Guerra to Presidente da Província de Minas Gerais, Rio, 27 Sept. 1856, in Brazil, Colleção das leis do Império do Brasil, Aviso 317 (Guerra); Morton, “Military and Society,” 258; and Hendrik Kraay, “Slavery, Citizenship, and Military Service in Brazil’s Mobilization for the Paraguayan War,” Slavery and Abolition 18.3 (December 1997): 228–256.

(18.) Brazil, Constituição política do Império do Brasil, Art. 94 in combination with Arts. 6, 90–92. On the income requirement, see especially José Antônio Pimenta Bueno, Direito publico brazileiro [sic] e analyse da Constituição do Imperio (Rio de Janeiro: Typ. Villeneuve, 1857), 472; and José de Alencar, Systema Representativo (Rio de Janeiro: Garnier, 1868), 93.

(19.) Agregado is a word of many meanings, dependent on context. It could refer to any dependent, even close relatives living in one’s house.

(20.) James W. Wells, Exploring and Travelling Three Thousand Miles Through Brazil from Rio de Janeiro to Maranhão (London: Low, Searle, & Rivington, 1886), 168; and Herbert H. Smith, Brazil—the Amazons and the Coast (New York: Scribner, 1879), 402–403.

(21.) João da Rocha Fragoso, Report, March 31,1879, quoted in Brazil, Ministério da Fazenda, Relatório, 1891, Vol. 2, Anexo C,4–5. See also Stuart B. Schwartz, “Elite Politics and the Growth of a Peasantry in Late Colonial Brazil,” in From Colony to Nation: Essays on the Independence of Brazil, ed. A. J. R. Russell-Wood (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1975), 144–154; Stanley J. Stein, The Brazilian Cotton Manufacture: Textile Enterprise in an Underdeveloped Area, 1850–1950 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1957), 32n, 57n, 58; Manuel Correia de Andrade, A terra e o homen no Nordeste (São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1963), 93–95; and Maria Sylvia de Carvalho Franco, Homens livres na ordem escravocrata, 2d ed., Ensaios No. 3 (São Paulo: Ática, 1974), 94–l07.

(22.) João José Reis, Slave Rebellion in Brazil: The Muslim Uprising of 1835 in Bahia, trans. Arthur Brakel (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), 223–230.

(23.) Lei 14, July 2, 1835, and Regulamento para a formação de capatazias. April 14, 1836 in Collecção das leis e resoluções da Assemblea Legislativa da Bahia . . . 1835 a 1838 (Salvador: Typ. de Antonio Olavo da França Guerra, 1862).

(24.) Juiz de Paz de Conceição da Praia and Juiz de Paz de Pilar to Presidente Provincial, March 7–8, 1837, copies enclosed in Secretário do Presidente Provincial to Assemblea Legislativa, March 8, 1837 (and the covering letter itself), Arquivo Público do Estado da Bahia, Seção Legislativa, M.1148. See also João José Reis, “A greve negra de 1857 na Bahia,” Revista USP, 18 (June–July–August 1993): 17–20.

(25.) Deposition of Angelo de Sá Tenorio, Ilha Grande, September 4, 1802, enclosed in João Pimenta de Carvalho to Viceroy, Angra dos Reis, June 8, 1803, Arquivo Nacional, Cx. 484, Pac. 1 [1220].

(26.) Arquivo Público do Estado de Pernambuco, Polícia Civil, 1852, 39; Arquivo Nacional, Seção do Poder Executivo, IJ1824. I owe these references to Joan Meznar.

(27.) Viceroy quoted in Joaquim José da [?] to Viceroy, Villa de S. Antonio de Sá, December 13, 1786, Arquivo Nacional, Cx. 484, Pac. 2.

(28.) Pedro Alvares de Andrade to Viceroy, Angra dos Reis, June 23, 1794, Arquivo Nacional, Cx. 484, Pac. 1.

(29.) Camara de Jaguaripe to Governador, Jaguaripe, September 27, 1783, Arquivo Público do Estado da Bahia, M.199 (Câmaras do Interior, 1766–1799); Ouvidor da Comarca de Ilhéus to Governador, Barcellos, September 26, 1806, Arquivo Público do Estado da Bahia, M.206 (Cartas ao Governo, 1803–1806).

(30.) Relação nominal das casas de negócios da Freguesia de Santa Rita, pertenente ao ano de 1841, Arquivo Geral da Cidade, Rio de Janeiro, Cód. 43-1-42.

(31.) Juiz de Paz de Conceição da Praia and Juiz de Paz de Pilar to Presidente da Província da Bahia, March 7–8, 1837, copies enclosed in Secretary of the Presidente da Província da Bahia to Assembléia Legislativa, March 8, 1837, Arquivo Público do Estado da Bahia, Seção Legislativa, M1148; João José Reis, “A greve negra de 1857 na Bahia,” Revista USP, 18 (June–July–August 1993): 6–29; Sandra Lauderdale Graham, House and Street: The Domestic World of Servants and Masters in Nineteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 31–58; and Camillia Cowling, Conceiving Freedom: Women of Color, 166.

(32.) “Carta I” in João Rodrigues de Brito et al., Cartas economico-politicas sobre a agricultura e commercio da Bahia (Lisbon: Imp. Nacional, 1821), 28; Sandra Lauderdale Graham, “Being Yoruba in Nineteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro,” Slavery & Abolition, 32.1 (March 2011): 8; on children alongside a street vendor see, for example, Inventário e testamento, Manuel José da Cunha, 1821, Arquivo Público do Estado da Bahia, Seção Judiciária, 04//1740/2210/01, fol. 10.

(33.) João José Reis, Slave Rebellion in Brazil: The Muslim Uprising of 1835 in Bahia, trans. Arthur Brakel (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), 167.

(34.) Luís dos Santos Vilhena, A Bahia no século XVIII, 2d ed., ed. Braz do Amaral (Salvador: Itapuã, 1969), I, 93; on their potential wealth, see the property left by a former slave woman when she died in 1823, Inventário, Ana de São José da Trindade, 1823, Arquivo Público do Estado da Bahia, 04/1840/2311/02, fols. 5v–8v and second pagination, fols.11 and 25. See also Cowling, Conceiving Freedom: Women of Color, 179–180, 186.

(35.) B. J. Barickman and Martha Few, “Ana Paulinha de Queirós, Joaquina Da Costa, and Their Neighbors:Free Women of Color as Household Heads in Bahia (Brazil), 1835,” in Beyond Bondage: Free Women of Color in the Americas, ed. David Barry Gaspar and Darlene Clark Hine (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004), 180, Table 9.3; Richard Francis Burton, Explorations of the Highlands of the Brazil: With a Full Account of the Gold and Diamond Mines. Also, Canoeing Down 1500 Miles of the Great River São Francisco from Sabará to the Sea (London: Tinsley, 1869), I, 273.

(36.) Lauderdale Graham, “Being Yoruba,” 13.

(37.) Licenses to sell on the street were issued by the municipal authority in Salvador, and these records are housed at the Arquivo Municipal de Salvador. The Arquivo Público do Estado da Bahia holds estate inventories that demonstrate the success of some such vendors. For other cities, see Mary C. Karasch, Slave Life in Rio de Janeiro, 206; and Maria Odila Leite da Silva Dias, Quotidiano e poder em São Paulo no século XIX: Ana Gertrudes de Jesus (São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1984), 92–97.

(38.) Inventário, Ana de São José da Trindade, Arquivo Público do Estado da Bahia, Seção Judiciária, 04/1840/2311/02. See also Cowling, Conceiving Freedom: Women of Color, 179–180 and 186. And surely the memory of Chica da Silva (ca. 1732–1796), who used her influence as concubine to the colonial governor of Minas Gerais to secure both wealth and political power, was still passed on by black women there well into the 19th century: Júnia Ferreira Furtado, Chica da Silva e o contratador dos diamantes: O outro lado do mito (São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2003).

(39.) See, for example, Josefa, Honoria, and Henriqueta, all “africanas livres” (that is, once found aboard illegal slaving vessels who then served the required 14 years), petitions to have their legal freedom fully established in a “Petição de emancipação,” Rio de Janeiro, October 14, 1859, n.d. (before June 20 1863), and June 25, 1864, Arquivo Nacional, Antiga Caixa 782, now caixa 01722, Pac. 2, 1854–1856 [sic].

(40.) As she reported having done when she wrote to her daughter: Florença da Silva to Balbina da Silva, Grão Mogol (MG), April 14, 1862, Arquivo Nacional, Rio de Janeiro, Seção de Arquivos Particulares, Família Werneck, Cód. 112, Cartas Avulsas, fol. 13-q. I owe this reference to Sandra Lauderdale Graham.

(41.) Speech of José Antônio Saraiva, June 4, 1880, Brazil, Congresso, Câmara dos Deputados, Anais, 1880, II, 43. See also, Degler, Neither Black Nor White, esp. chap. 5.

(42.) Hendrik Kraay, “‘As Terrifying as Unexpected’: The Bahian Sabinada, 1837–1838,” 520–521.

(43.) Keila Grinberg, O fiador dos brasileiros: Cidadania, escravidão e direito civil no tempo de Antônio Pereira Rebouças (Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 2002); and Leo Spitzer, Lives in Between: Assimilation and Marginality in Austria, Brazil, West Africa, 1780–1945 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 113–125.

(44.) José Wanderley Pinho [de Araújo], Cotegipe e seu tempo: Primeira phase, 1815–1867, Brasiliana No. 85 (São Paulo: Editora Nacional, 1937), passim. Gazeta da Tarde, September 1, 1880, quoted in Rebecca Baird Bergstresser, “The Movement for the Abolition of Slavery in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1880–1889” (PhD Diss., Stanford University, 1973), 161; “Mulatos e negros escravocratas,” A Redenção, September 25, 1887, quoted in Célia Maria Marinho de Azevedo, Onda negra, medo branco: O negro no imaginário das elites—século XIX (Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 1987), 224.

(45.) Inventário da Baronesa de Cotegipe, April 4, 1877, Arquivo do Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro, Coleção Cotegipe, L92, D7.

(46.) Robert Brent Toplin, The Abolition of Slavery in Brazil (New York: Atheneum, 1972), 219, 235, 236, 251.

(47.) Bergstresser, “Movement for the Abolition of Slavery,” 156.

(48.) João Manuel de Carvalho, Reminiscencias sobre vultos e factos do imperio e da republica (Amparo: Typ. do “Correio,” 1894), 91; and Luiz Gastão de Escragnolle Dória, “Cousas do passado,” Revista do Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro 71.2 (1908): 383.

(49.) Raimundo Magalhães Júnior, Três panfletários do segundo reinado: Francisco de Sales Torres Homem e o “Líbelo do povo”; Justiniano José da Rocha e “Ação, reação, transação”; Antônio Ferreira Vianna e “A conferência dos divinos,” Brasiliana, 286 (São Paulo: Ed. Nacional, 1956), 126–159; and Floriano Torres Homem, “Francisco de Salles Torres Homem, visconde de Inhomerin,” in 3º Congresso de História Nacional, 1938, Anais, 10 vols. Rio de Janeiro, 1939–1944, Vol. 6, 85–165.

(50.) Phoción Serpa, Francisco Otaviano: Ensaio biográfico (Rio de Janeiro: Academia Brasileira de Letras, 1952).

(51.) Humberto Fernandes Machado, “Palavras e brados: a imprensa abolicionista do Rio de Janeiro, 1880–1888’” (PhD Diss., University of São Paulo, 1991).

(52.) Spitzer, Lives in Between, 121; Inácio José Veríssimo, André Rebouças através de sua autobiografia, Documentos Brasileiros, 20 (Rio de Janeiro: José Olympio, 1939),5–10, 76–83, 89–91, 131, 133, 135,139–140, 156–157; and Bergstresser, “Movement for the Abolition of Slavery,” 102–103.

(53.) André Rebouças, Agricultura nacional, estudos economicos; propaganda abolicionista e democratica (Rio de Janeiro: Lamoureux, 1883), 125.

(54.) Robert Conrad, The Destruction of Brazilian Slavery (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), 154–155; and Sud Menucci, O precursor do abolicionismo no Brasil (Luiz Gama) (São Paulo: Editora Nacional, 1938), 165–186.

(55.) Thomas H. Holloway, “The Defiant Life and Forgotten Death of Apulco de Castro: Race, Power, and Historical Memory,” Estudios Interdisciplinarios de América Latina y el Caribe, 19.1 (2008): 82–101.

(56.) Brazil, Directoria Geral de Estatística, Recenseamento da população do Imperio do Brazil [sic] a que se procedeu no dia 1o de agosto de 1872 (Rio de Janeiro: Typ. Nacional, 1873–186), various pages; Brazil, Officina da Estatística, Recenseamento do Rio de Janeiro (Districto Federal) realizado em 20 de setembro de 1906 (Rio de Janeiro: Officina de Estatística, 1907), 110 (this data refers to the percentage of total literates among the total free over six years of age).

(57.) Thomas E. Skidmore, Black Into White: Race and Nationality in Brazilian Thought, 2d ed. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993), 21–27, 64–69. Even before abolition, frankly racist arguments were used in the São Paulo provincial legislature to favor immigration and forbid the transport of more slaves from other provinces into São Paulo, Azevedo, Onda negra, medo branco, 154–157.

(58.) Quoted in George Reid Andrews, “Black and White Workers: São Paulo, Brazil, 1888–1928,” Hispanic American Historical Review 68.3 (August 1988), 494, 518. On the earlier small-scale experiment in government funding of immigration, see Paulo Pinheiro Chagas, Teófilo Ottoni, ministro do povo, 2d rev. ed. (Rio de Janeiro: Livraria São José, 1956), 261–264, and William Scully, Brazil: Its Provinces and Chief Cities; the Manners & Customs of the People; Agricultural, Commercial and Other Statistics Taken from the Latest Official Documents; with a Variety of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge Both for the Merchant and the Emigrant (London: Trübner, 1868), 124. On the 1880s program, see Robert Conrad, The Destruction of Brazilian Slavery (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), 258–259; Teresa Schorer Petrone, “Imigração asalariada,” in História geral da civilização brasileira, ed. Sérgio Buarque de Holanda (São Paulo: Difusão Européia do Livro, 1969), 277n; and Thomas H. Holloway, Immigrants on the Land: Coffee and Society in São Paulo, 1889–1934 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980).

(59.) George Reid Andrews, Blacks and Whites in São Paulo, Brazil, 1888–1988 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991), 85–88.

(60.) Gilberto Freyre, The Masters and the Slaves [Casa Grande & Senzala]: A Study in the Development of Brazilian Civilization, trans. Samuel Putnam (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1946), 328.

(61.) Roger Bastide, The African Religions of Brazil: Toward a Sociology of the Interpenetration of Civilizations, trans. Helen Sebba (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), 61.

(62.) Emília Viotti da Costa, Da senzala à colônia, Corpo e Alma Do Brasil No. 19 (São Paulo: DIFEL, 1966), 269. I was led to these specific examples by Robert W. Slenes, “Black Homes, White Homilies: Perceptions of the Slave Family and of Slave Women in Nineteenth-Century Brazil,” in More Than Chattel: Black Women and Slavery in the Americas, ed. David Barry Gaspar and Darlene Clark Hine (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996), 127.

(63.) Herbert S. Klein, “The Colored Freedmen in Brazilian Slave Society,” Journal of Social History 3.1 (1969): 30–52; and Robert W. Slenes, “The Demography and Economics of Brazilian Slavery, 1850–1888,” (PhD Diss., Stanford University, 1975), esp. chap. 9;

(64.) Alida C. Metcalf, Family and Frontier in Colonial Brazil: Santana de Parnaíba, 1580–1822 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 167; and Sandra Lauderdale Graham, Caetana Says No: Women’s Stories from a Brazilian Slave Society (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 34.

(65.) B. J. Barickman and Martha Few, “Ana Paulinha de Queirós, Joaquina da Costa, and their Neighbors: Free Women of Color as Household Heads in Bahia (Brazil), 1835,” in Beyond Bondage: Free Women of Color in the Americas, ed. David Barry Gaspar and Darlene Clark Hine (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004), 169–201.

(66.) Keila Grinberg, O fiador dos brasileiros: Cidadania, escravidão e direito civil no tempo de Antônio Pereira Rebouças (Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 2002).

(67.) Carl N. Degler, Neither Black Nor White: Slavery and Race Relations in Brazil and the United States (New York: Macmillan, 1971).

(68.) Maria Inês Côrtes de Oliveira, O liberto: O seu mundo.

(69.) João José Reis, Slave Rebellion in Brazil: The Muslim Uprising of 1835 in Bahia, trans. Arthur Brakel (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993).

(70.) João José Reis, Flávio dos Santos Gomes, and Marcus J. M. de Carvalho, O alufá Rufino: Tráfico, escravidão e liberdade no Atlântico negro (c. 1822–c. 1853) (São Paulo, Brazil: Companhia das Letras, 2010).

(71.) João José Reis, Divining Slavery and Freedom: The Story of Domingos Sodré, an African Priest in Nineteenth-Century Brazil, trans. H. Sabrina Gledhill (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2015).