Discussion in 'Honoring Black Ancestors' started by Isaiah, Jun 27, 2005.

  1. Isaiah

    Isaiah Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Jun 8, 2004
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    The slave king
    The epic of Palmares — a state founded in the 17th century by runaway slaves, in Northeastern Brazil — has taken a life of its own. On November 20, Brazil will be celebrating the 300th anniversary of Palmares's leader, Zumbi. The commemorations will also certainly be used to reflect upon the past and to draw lessons in order to create a more just society.
    Robert Nelson Anderson III *
    November 20, 1995, marks the three hundredth anniversary of the death of Zumbi, the last leader of the quilombo of Palmares. Palmares was a state founded by maroons, or runaway slaves, which flourished in Northeastern Brazil throughout most of the seventeenth century. This date looms large in the popular imagination, since Zumbi embodies for many Brazilians, especially those of African descent, the strongest resistance to the slave-based colonial regime, and, consequently, the struggle for economic and political justice.

    The last leader of Palmares has become more than a secular hero — Zumbi is viewed as an ancestor, an antecedent in what the outsider might see as a fictive lineage. As such, his spirit is inherently divine and immortal, and is thus worthy of respect from those who consider themselves his descendants. This belief is such that the tercentenary commemoration talks about celebrating three hundred years of Zumbi's immortality.

    Since the establishment in Brazil of November 20 as National Black Consciousness Day — originally called Zumbi Day — in 1978, popular discourse has increasingly treated Zumbi not only as the premiere Afro-Brazilian hero but also as having constituted on Brazilian soil an alternative to racism and colonialism. The importance of this anniversary is widely recognized.

    Witness that Salvador, the "capital" of Afro-Brazil and currently host to the world's largest pre-Lenten festival in terms of numbers of tourists, chose Zumbi as the theme for Carnaval in 1995. For November events are planned around the country, including pilgrimages to the site of Palmares in the state of Alagoas, with the possible presence of the President of the Republic, and the Movimento Negro Unificado's march on Brasília. These events will certainly underscore Zumbi of Palmares's mythic status.

    Most of what we know about Palmares comes from accounts of the Dutch and Portuguese campaigns against the quilombo between 1640 and 1695. One combination or another of these official documents and eye-witness accounts by would-be invaders is the basis for subsequent Brazilian historiography and ethnography, each in turn informed by the ideology and intellectual biases of its time. Not surprisingly, most sources have tended to see Palmares as a threat to Portuguese colonial (and, by extension, Brazilian) sovereignty and the quilombo's defeat as basically a patriotic victory.

    Yet, even white commentators have lionized the Afro-Brazilian state on occasion. The nineteenth century Portuguese republican Joaquim Pedro de Oliveira Martins called Palmares "a black Troy, and its story is an Iliad." Recent generations of Brazilian leftists have seen in Palmares an alternative social order, as in this statement from Décio Freitas: "These rustic black republics reveal the dream of a social order founded on fraternal equality and for this reason are incorporated into the revolutionary tradition of the Brazilian people."


    From the earliest time in which Africans were brought forcibly to the new world they resisted bondage by flight, or marronage. It seems that from the earliest arrival of Africans in the captaincies of Alagoas and Pernambuco in Portuguese America slaves had fled to the interior. By 1606 a trickle of runaway slaves had made their way to a mountainous, palm-covered region of Pernambuco and there established a mocambo, or maroon settlement, of some reputation.

    The area came to be known as Palmares due to the preponderance of wild palms there. The Palmares region, straddling the Serra da Barriga, received a greater number of fugitive slaves in the 1630s thanks in part to the Dutch invasion of Northeastern Brazil. During the Dutch dominion and after the Portuguese reconquest of Pernambuco, completed in 1654, there were occasional incursions into Palmares, without great success. Of special interest are the expeditions of Bartholomeus Lintz (1640), Roelox Baro (1643), and Johan Blaer and Jürgens Reijmbach (1645).

    At the time of the Lintz expedition, there were two large mocambos and any number of smaller ones. By the time of the Blaer-Reijmbach expedition there was at least one large mocambo; another large mocambo had been abandoned three years earlier. The diary of the expedition describes the large "Palmares": It was surrounded by a double palisade with a spike-lined trough inside. This settlement was half a mile long, its street six feet wide. There was a swamp on the north side and large felled trees on the south. We might guess that the clearing was for cultivation or for defensive reasons.

    There were 220 buildings in the middle of which stood a church, four smithies, and a council house. The population was around 1,500. The ruler of that place, according to the diary, was severely just, punishing sorcerers, as well as those who would flee the mocambo. The king had a house and farms outside the settlement. The narrative also includes description of cultivation and foodstuffs, uses made of the palm, and crafts such as work in straw, gourds, and ceramic.

    As was so often the case in the long history of wars against Palmares, the soldiers found the settlement virtually abandoned when they arrived; the Palmarinos would receive advance word of expeditions from their spies in the colonial towns and sugar plantations or engenhos


  2. ifasehun

    ifasehun Well-Known Member MEMBER

    May 11, 2003
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    Zumbi is by far one of our greatest heroes.

    A really good movie to check out is Quilombo. Its in subtitles, but its very easy to follow. This is the best film presentation of Zumbi's life I have ever seen.
  3. Sekhemu

    Sekhemu Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Jul 9, 2003
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    new jersey
    +1,063 / -1
    Brotha Isaiah,

    Thanks again for posting such an inspiring article. Unfortunately I over-looked it up to this point.

    However, if it's alright with you, I'd like to share a related link to this thread