Contentious Childhoods: Tutelage, Slavery, and Transition in Rio de Janeiro, 1871–1900

Friday, January 6, 2017: 3:50 PM
Mile High Ballroom 4C (Colorado Convention Center)
Nicolette Kostiw, Vanderbilt University
This paper uses tutelage litigation documents to explore the disconnect between the rhetoric of civilizing children of color through tutelage and the application of a legal mechanism intended to control newly-freed people and their progeny in late-nineteenth century Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Tutored children in the pre-1871 period were almost exclusively part of the elite class and stood to inherit a significant sum. However, the passage of the Free Womb Law in 1871 as part of Brazil’s gradual abolition process ushered in major changes to the system. As a result of the Free Womb Law, tutelage expanded to include ingênuos, or children of color born free as a result of the Free Womb Law. Tutelage, although present across Latin America, functioned uniquely in Brazil because of its correlation with the gradual end of slavery, Brazil’s legal traditions, and its targeted use against Afro-Brazilians and their descendants. I argue that these cases reveal how children of color emerged as a central point of contention, both theoretically and practically, between people of color and elite Brazilians during this period.