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Abolition of Slavery in Brazil Essay


Introduction

For many historians, modern Brazilian history begins with the abolition of slavery. Talks of transition from slavery to freedom always take centre stage1. In most parts of America, the legislation to abolition slave trade was greatly opposed by big plantation owners who needed the services of slaves and knew that the legislation to end slavery was a major barrier to the success of their plans.

Most of them hoped to expand their plantations further and the law to abolish slavery would bring this dream to a stop2. However, although opposed to the move to abolish slave trade, slave owners never resisted with military force. They instead chose to lobby support from other people so that together, they would fight against the abolition3.

The Origin of Brazilian Slaves

Various studies have indicated that the slaves who came to Brazil originated from African countries such as Congo, Angola, Benguela and the East African Coast. These slaves were exchanged between colonial masters and were chosen very carefully4.

Even though a license to trade slaves between Mozambique and Brazil was granted in the year 1645, activities of slave trade begun when the Portuguese finally got rid of restrictions that once existed between the two countries5. Familiarity to English norms was one of the criteria used to select slaves. The slaves were imported mainly to supply the much needed labor for plantations6.

Brief History of Brazil at the Time of Abolition

During the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte, the Portuguese royal family relocated to Brazil for fear of being attacked. They later established their rule in Brazil7. Even though Pedro II was such a conservative ruler, he realized that slavery was hurting his subjects and started looking for ways to rescue them from the unfair treatment8.

With this conviction, Pedro II slowly passed laws that sooner or later would lead to the abolition of slavery. Afraid of the repercussions of Pedro’s legislations, Brazilian land owners together with the military did not support his ideas wholeheartedly. They were very much aware that with abolition of slavery, slave owners would be required to spend quite heavily on production as their plantations were quite huge.

While away on a trip, Pedro returned to find that his daughter, Princess Isabel, had already passed a law to abolish slavery on May 13th 1888. Although the enactment of this law brought honor to the Brazilian royal family, the unhappy land owners started opposing the monarchy9.

According to Liberal Brazilians the period between 1822 and 1855 marked an era of action, reaction and transaction and the subject of slavery was regarded as being an ethnic, racial, and cultural rather than a political and economic problem10.

Reasons Why Brazil was the Last Country to Abolish Slavery

The delay in ending slavery in Brazil is partly linked to the fact that Brazilians were in tight collaboration with the Portuguese. The fact that the British had no legal authority to search Portuguese colonies, made it easy to move slaves to Brazil while challenging for the British to stop the advancement of slavery.

The problem was later dealt with when the British slowly loosened the interpretation of the treaties, creating room for British ships to check all Portuguese vessels11.

Another reason that must have led to the delay in abolishing slavery in Brazil is the heavy dependence on slavery to provide labor for the country’s huge plantations and other sectors of the economy.

Brazilian slavery cut across all parts of its economy and was critical to the existence of almost all social institutions and in particular families. The ownership of slavery was open to all Brazilians in the countryside as well as in the cities12.

In 1770s, planters in Brazil ventured into coffee farming to generate income. Just like slaves, the coffee crop also had its roots in Africa. This decision led to an increased demand for cheap labor and made it quite difficult for opponents of slavery to succeed in the fight against slave trade. Proponents who included both growers and politicians strongly resisted the abolition of slavery knowing clearly, the repercussions of the act13.

When slavery was at last abolished in 1888, proponents made various attempts to regain the control they earlier had wielded but is was all in vain as slaves had declared themselves free and were determined to leave their masters14.

Arguments for and Against Abolition of Slavery in Brazil

According to Pedro II, slavery was subjecting his subjects to great injustice and had to be brought to an end. For the plantation owners, however, the end of slavery would mean hard economic times as operational costs would increase. Clearly, financial benefits or fear of losses influenced the actions of slave owners.

Brazil Today

Modern day Brazil is multi-racial and according to research, Brazil’s racial climate is the most tolerant in the world. Unlike societies such as the United States, Brazilians do not practice any form of racial segregation. Both blacks and whites in Brazil receive equal treatment. Some people have categorized Brazil as a racial democracy in which even during slavery, whites treated blacks better than anywhere else in the world15.

Over the years, Brazil’s economy has kept growing. Complete with natural resources and a large international market, Brazil is a home to large global corporations and is identified by many as an emerging super power. The country still continues to draw a lot of attention from international observers16.

The greatest desire for Brazil is to be self sufficient. To accomplish this, the country’s leaders have always focused on creating state led development policies17. Obviously, ideas such as offering subsidies to farmers to enable them use modern fertilizer inputs played a big role in growing the country’s economy18.

Although Brazil’s economy is mainly based on cultivation and export of sugar and coffee, stakeholders want to transform it into a more modern industrial and service economy19.

The Influence of Slavery on Brazil’s Culture

Slavery greatly shaped the culture currently witnessed in Brazil. As slaves were brought into Brazil, they came along with their cultures and these slowly permeated into the Brazilian society influencing especially religion, music and dance, as well as food and eating habits20.

Unlike in the United States where the separation between blacks and whites is crystal clear, Brazilians regard all citizens the same way regardless of what their origins are. Every person is entitled to equal treatment and no race is considered inferior or superior to others21. With the abolition of slavery, slaves received their freedom but knew no other home apart from Brazil.

Consequently, they settled in the country and although initially they operated ambiguously as both slaves and freed men and women, they slowly became legal citizens working and living in Brazil22. The diverse religious beliefs in Brazil are also seen as resulting from the influence of slavery on the Brazilian culture23.

The eradication of racism in Brazil was eventually realized by the change of the terminology color after the abolition took place, decline in slavery, opportunities for slaves to be free, the disappearance of the aging population of African origin and the expansion of free Brazilian born population of African background24.

In the years following the abolition and immediately after the abolition, Brazilian elites embarked on addressing the issue of race and made race and slavery to be national symbols to define national culture and identify25.

For many Brazilians, race was a great concern not only in the post abolition era in Brazil but also in other societies that were in similar situations26. There were competitions between systems of slavery and those of free labor on one hand and the place of race in determining social status on the other hand27.

Conclusion

The involvement of Brazil in slavery brought great benefits to the country and helped to boost the economy and social standing of the country. In the early days of its development, slaves provided cheap labor that supported the growth of the Brazilian economy. Although many people were affected by the abolition of slavery, this did not have a serious negative impact to the economy as the country’s economy was already on the rise.

Bibliography

African American Registry, Brazil Abolishes Slavery, John Wiley & Sons, 1999. Web.

Baronov, D, The abolition of slavery in Brazil: The “Liberation” of Africans Through the Emancipation of Capital, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000.

Bergad, LW, The comparative histories of slavery in Brazil, Cuba, and the United States, Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Brainard, L, Brazil as an economic superpower?: understanding Brazil’s changing role in the global economy, Brookings Institution Press, 2009.

Clarke, PB, New trends and developments in African religions, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1998.

Curto, JC & Soulodre-LaFrance, R, Africa and the Americas: interconnections during the slave trade, Africa World Press, 2005.

Davis, DJ, Slavery and beyond: the African impact on Latin America and the Caribbean, Rowman & Littlefield, 1995.

DeFord, DH, Life under slavery, Infobase Publishing, 2006.

Ellis, HS, The Economy of Brazil, University of California Press, 1969.

Frey, SR & Wood, B, From slavery to emancipation in the Atlantic world, Routledge, 1999.

Gordon, L, Brazil’s Second Chance: En Route toward the First World, Brookings Institution Press, 2001.

Hamilton, K & Salmon, P, Slavery, diplomacy and empire: Britain and the suppression of the slave trade, 1807-1975, Sussex Academic Press, 2009.

Hanchard, M, Racial politics in contemporary Brazil, Duke University Press, 1999.

Kraay, H, Afro-Brazilian culture and politics: Bahia, 1790s to 1990s, M.E. Sharpe, 1998.

Levine, RM, The history of Brazil, Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

Mattoso, K M, To be a slave in Brazil, 1550-1888, Rutgers University Press, 1986.

Meade, TA, A Brief History of Brazil, Infobase Publishing, 2009.

Moraña, M, Jáuregui, CA, Revisiting the colonial question in Latin America, Iberoamericana Editorial, 2008.

Nishida, M, Slavery and identity: ethnicity, gender, and race in Salvador, Brazil, 1808-1888, Indiana University Press, 2003.

Scott, RJ, The Abolition of slavery and the aftermath of emancipation in Brazil, Duke University Press, 1988.

Tosto, M, The meaning of liberalism in Brazil, Lexington Books, 2005.

Footnotes

1 Baronov, D, The abolition of slavery in Brazil: The “Liberation” of Africans Through the Emancipation of Capital, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000, p. 2.

2 Scott, RJ, The Abolition of slavery and the aftermath of emancipation in Brazil, Duke University Press, 1988, p. 37.

3 Scott, p. 37.

4 Mattoso, KM, To be a slave in Brazil, 1550-1888, Rutgers University Press, 1986, p. 46.

5 Curto, JC & Soulodre-LaFrance, R, Africa and the Americas: interconnections during the slave trade, Africa World Press, 2005, p. 44.

6 Moraña, p. 96.

7 African American Registry, Brazil Abolishes Slavery, John Wiley & Sons, 1999, p. 1.

8 African American Registry, p. 1.

9 African American Registry, p. 1.

10 Tosto, M, The meaning of liberalism in Brazil, Lexington Books, 2005, p. 23.

11 Hamilton, K & Salmon, P, Slavery, diplomacy and empire: Britain and the suppression of the slave trade, 1807-1975, Sussex Academic Press, 2009, p. 68.

12 Moraña, M, Jáuregui, CA, Revisiting the colonial question in Latin America, Iberoamericana Editorial, 2008, p. 96.

13 DeFord, DH, Life under slavery, Infobase Publishing, 2006, p. 42.

14 Bergad, LW, The comparative histories of slavery in Brazil, Cuba, and the United States, Cambridge University Press, 2007, p. 12.

15 Levine, RM, The history of Brazil, Palgrave Macmillan, 2003, p. 13.

16 Brainard, L, Brazil as an economic superpower?: understanding Brazil’s changing role in the global economy, Brookings Institution Press, 2009, p. 1.

17 Brainard, p. 5.

18 Ellis, HS, The Economy of Brazil, University of California Press, 1969, p. 226.

19 Gordon, L, Brazil’s Second Chance: En Route toward the First World, Brookings Institution Press, 2001, p. 2.

20 Davis, DJ, Slavery and beyond: the African impact on Latin America and the Caribbean, Rowman & Littlefield, 1995, p. 28.

21 Frey, SR & Wood, B, From slavery to emancipation in the Atlantic world, Routledge, 1999, p. 9.

22 Kraay, H, Afro-Brazilian culture and politics: Bahia, 1790s to 1990s, M.E. Sharpe, 1998, p. 12.

23 Clarke, PB, New trends and developments in African religions, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1998, p. 33.

24 Nishida, M, Slavery and identity: ethnicity, gender, and race in Salvador, Brazil, 1808-1888, Indiana University Press, 2003, p. 153.

25 Hanchard, M, Racial politics in contemporary Brazil, Duke University Press, 1999, p. 123.

26 Meade, TA, A Brief History of Brazil, Infobase Publishing, 2009, p. 83.

27 Meade, p. 83.

This Essay on Abolition of Slavery in Brazil was written and submitted by user Celia Simmons to help you with your own studies. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.

Celia Simmons studied at Colorado State University, USA, with average GPA 3.53 out of 4.0.

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Simmons, C. (2019, July 4). Abolition of Slavery in Brazil [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/abolition-of-slavery-in-brazil-essay/

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Simmons, Celia. "Abolition of Slavery in Brazil." IvyPanda, 4 July 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/abolition-of-slavery-in-brazil-essay/.

1. Celia Simmons. "Abolition of Slavery in Brazil." IvyPanda (blog), July 4, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/abolition-of-slavery-in-brazil-essay/.


Bibliography


Simmons, Celia. "Abolition of Slavery in Brazil." IvyPanda (blog), July 4, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/abolition-of-slavery-in-brazil-essay/.

References

Simmons, Celia. 2019. "Abolition of Slavery in Brazil." IvyPanda (blog), July 4, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/abolition-of-slavery-in-brazil-essay/.

References

Simmons, C. (2019) 'Abolition of Slavery in Brazil'. IvyPanda, 4 July.

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