The Role of Afro-Brazilian Mobilization in Rio de Janeiro’s Abolitionist Movement

Friday, January 5, 2018: 10:30 AM
Thurgood Marshall South (Marriott Wardman Park)
Jeffrey D. Needell, University of Florida
In the now classic studies of the 1960s and 1970s, Brazil’s Abolitionist movement (1879-1888) was analyzed as a movement of the urban middle class; neither the Afro Brazilian masses nor the parliamentary politics involved were brought into focus. In fact, the first was largely dismissed, except for one pioneering, unpublished dissertation, which sought, at least, to discuss the movement’s appeal to Afro Brazilians along racial lines. The second, to the extent that it was addressed, was seen as secondary in the analysis, a dependent variable, at best, and was poorly understood and analyzed. Since the 1970s, Afro-Brazilian agency in ending slavery has been the focus. Indeed, at least in the academy, it has been credited with having worn down slaveholding through ongoing resistance and spontaneous rural flight; however, the critical and contextual role of the organized movement has largely been swept from view, along with the critical issue of parliamentary politics. This paper attempts to understand the emergence of Afro-Brazilian racial solidarity in the Rio of the 1880s and to re-integrate the consequent mass mobilization back into the urban movement. It also will argue for that mobilization’s critical role in the parliamentary history that brought slaveholding to an end through legislation and that explains the movement’s containment.
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