Black History Selection 3

The Atlantic Slave Trade


Part 3 Freedom Fighters

Slave Rebellions

South America and the Caribbean

 Quilombo dos Palmares in Brazil, 1605 to 1694.

hero1Palmares, or Quilombo dos Palmares, was a fugitive community of escaped slaves and others in colonial Brazil that developed from 1605 until its suppression in 1694. It was located in what is today the Brazilian state of Alagoas. The modern tradition has been to call the settlement the Quilombo of Palmares. Quilombos Were settlements mainly of runaway and free-born enslavedAfrican people. The Quilombos came into existence when Africans began arriving in Brazil in the mid-1530s and grew significantly as slavery expanded.

 During this time the vast majority of the enslaved Africans who were being brought to Palmares were from Angola, perhaps as many as 90%, and therefore it is no surprise that tradition, reported as early as 1671 related that its first founders were Angolan. This large number was primarily because the Portuguese used the colony of Angola as a major raiding base, and there was a close relationship between the holders of the contract of Angola, the governors of Angola, and the governors of Palmares

One estimate places the population of Palmares in the 1690s at around 20,000 inhabitants, although recent scholarship has questioned whether this figure is exaggerated. Stuart Schwartz places the number at roughly 11,000, noting that it was, regardless, “undoubtedly the largest fugitive community to have existed in Brazil”. These inhabitants developed a society and government that derived from a range of Central African socio-political models, a reflection of the diverse ethnic origins of its inhabitants. This government was confederate in nature, and was led by an elected chief who allocated landholdings, appointed officials (usually family members), and resided in a type of fortification called Macoco. Six Portuguese expeditions tried to conquer Palmares between 1680 and 1686, but failed. Finally, the governor of the captaincy of Palmares, Pedro Almeida, organized an army, under the leadership of the BandeirantesDomingos Jorge Velho and Bernardo Vieira de Melo, defeated a palmarista force putting an end to the republic in 1694.

 The Haitian Revolution (1791–1804)

hero2This was a period of conflict in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, which culminated in the elimination of slavery there and the founding of the Haitian republic. Although hundreds of rebellions occurred in the New World during the centuries of slavery, only two, the American Revolution that began in 1776 and the Haitian revolution that began in 1791 were successful in achieving permanent independence. The Haitian Revolution is regarded as a defining moment in the history of Africans in the New World.

Although an independent government was created in Haiti, its society continued to be deeply affected by the patterns established under French colonial rule. The French established a system of minority rule over the illiterate poor by using violence and threats. Because many planters had provided for their mixed-race children by African women by giving them education and (for men) training and entrée into the French military, the mulatto descendants became the elite in Haiti after the revolution. By the time of war, many had used their social capital to acquire wealth, and some already owned land. Some had identified more with the French colonists than the slaves, and associated within their own circles.

 hero3White colonists and black slaves frequently had violent conflicts. Much of these conflicts surrounded the slaves who were able to escape the plantations. Many of these runaway slaves, called maroons, lived on the margins of large plantations and lived off what they could steal from their previous masters. Others ran away to towns, where they could blend in with urban slaves and the freed slaves who often concentrated in those areas. If caught, these runaway slaves would be severely and violently punished. However, some masters tolerated “petit marronages”, or short-term absences from plantations. Often, however, larger groups of runaway slaves lived in the woods away from control. They often conducted violent raids on the island’s sugar and coffee plantations. Although the numbers in these bands grew large (sometimes into the thousands), they generally lacked the leadership and strategy to accomplish large-scale objectives. The first effective maroon leader to emerge was the charismatic François Mackandal, who succeeded in unifying the black resistance. A Vodou priest, Mackandal inspired his people by drawing on African traditions and religions. He united the maroon bands and also established a network of secret organizations among plantation slaves, leading a rebellion from 1751 through 1757. Although Mackandal was captured by the French and burned at the stake in 1758, large armed maroon bands persisted in raids and harassment after his death.

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