slavery in brazil -- 12/29/15 End of Year Encores: This year a few encores on slavery.

Today's selection -- As brought to our attention by Henry Louis Gates in The Root, more slaves were taken to Brazil from Africa than to any other country, and in 1888, Brazil finally abolished slavery, the last country in the Western world to do so. Slaves were brought first for the sugar plantations, then for gold and diamond mining, and then for ranching and agricultural products, especially coffee. Gates writes that "The most comprehensive analysis of shipping records over the course of the slave trade is the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, edited by professors David Eltis and David Richardson. (While the editors are careful to say that all of their figures are estimates, I believe that they are the best estimates that we have. ...) Between 1525 and 1866, in the entire history of the slave trade to the New World, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America. And how many of these 10.7 million Africans were shipped directly to North America? Only about 388,000. That's right: a tiny percentage. In fact, the overwhelming percentage of the African slaves were shipped directly to the Caribbean and South America; Brazil received 4.86 million Africans alone! Some scholars estimate that another 60,000 to 70,000 Africans ended up in the United States after touching down in the Caribbean first, so that would bring the total to approximately 450,000 Africans who arrived in the United States over the course of the slave trade."

The following selection is from The Brazil Reader, edited by Robert M. Levine and John J. Crocitti:

"At least 3,600,000 black slaves were brought to Brazil alive [4.86 million according to Eltis and Richardson], while thousands more perished aboard the ships traveling from Africa to Brazil. Between 1800 and 1852, during the period when some European nations began to turn against the institution of slavery and pressure slave traders to cease, more than 1,600,000 slaves arrived in Brazil. In Africa, slaves were captured, branded, placed in heavy iron manacles, and transported on voyages that sometimes took as long as eight months to reach their final destination. The international trade was outlawed in 1830, but slave ships continued to journey to Brazil. By the 1840s, the British were seizing ships carrying slaves and freeing their captives, although when slavers saw hostile naval vessels approaching, they often threw their human cargo into the sea to avoid fines and the confiscation of their ships. The first two selections [below] were written in logbooks aboard British naval ships in February 1841. The third passage was written by Joao Dunshee de Abrantes, a Brazilian abolitionist, in the northern port of Sao Luiz [Luis] do Maranhao.

"I. Logbook from the Warship Fawn

The living, the dying, and the dead, huddled together in one mass. Some unfortunates in the most disgusting state of smallpox, distressingly ill with ophthalmia, a few perfectly blind, others living skeletons, with difficulty crawled from below, unable to bear the weight of their miserable bodies. Mothers with young infants hanging at their breasts, unable to give them a drop of nourishment. How they had brought them thus far appeared astonishing: all were perfectly naked. Their limbs were excoriated from lying on the hard plank for so long a period. On going below, the stench was insupportable. How beings could breathe such an atmosphere, and live, appeared incredible. Several were under the soughing, which was called the deck, dying -- one dead.

"II. Logbook from the British Hospital Ship Crescent

Huddled together on deck, and clogging up the gangways on either side, cowered, or rather squatted, 362 Negroes, with disease, want, and misery stamped on them with such painful intensity as utterly beggars all powers of description. In one corner . . . a group of wretched beings lay stretched, many in the last stages of exhaustion, and all covered with the pustules of smallpox. Several of these, I noticed, had crawled to the spot where the water had been served out, in the hope of procuring a mouthful of the precious liquid; but unable to return to their proper places, lay prostrate around the empty tub. Here and there, amid the throng, were isolated cases of the same loathsome disease in its confluent or worst form, and cases of extreme emaciation and exhaustion, some in a state of perfect stupor, others looking around piteously, and pointing with their fingers to their parched mouths .... On every side, squalid and sunken visages were rendered still more hideous by the swollen eyelids and the putrid discharge of a virulent ophthalmia, with which the majority appeared to be afflicted; added to this were figures shriveled to absolute skin and bone, and doubled up in a posture that originally want of space had compelled them to adopt, and that debility and stiffness of the joints compelled them to retain.

"III. Captives

Removed from the ship into barges, they came in neck chains, or libambos, leashed to one another to stop them from running away or throwing themselves into the water. Often, they had already been divided into lots before leaving the ship. And they were delivered in bunches to the merchants or the bush captains, representatives of the planters of the interior of the province. Since, in certain seasons, the ships remained two or three days in view of the harbor entrance without being able to enter, the buyers went out to meet them in boats to complete the transactions. The traffickers did everything they could to land those horrible cargoes at once. And after a certain number of years in the business, their service was perfected, and usually only sick slaves or those of a weak constitution set foot on the soil of San Luiz. These were sold at any price, while the other unfortunates, descended from good races, were haggled over and high offers were made."


Robert M. Levine and John J. Crocitti, editors


The Brazil Reader: History, Culture, Politics (The Latin America Readers)


Duke University Press


1999 Duke University Press


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