Before we start discussing this article, it is vital to understand who Afro-Brazilians are. Afro-Brazilians are Brazilians who have a primarily or partially ancestry or origins from the African continent. The history of the Afro-Brazilian people spans more than five centuries of racial communication or interaction between Africans involved, imported, or descended from the impacts of the Atlantic slave trade (also called the transatlantic slave trade).
The Africans who landed on the Brazilian soil belonged to two principal groups. That is the Bantu people and the West African. People sent the West African people on a large scale to Bahia. They majorly belong to the Yoruba, the Igbo, the Fon, the Ashanti, the Ewe, Mandinka, and other West African ethnic groups native to Ghana, Guinea, Benin, Guinea-Bissau, and Nigeria. They took the Bantus from Angola, Congo, and Mozambique and sent them on a large scale to Rio de Janeiro (Minas Gerais) and Brazil’s North-Eastern region. The Africans who went to the Brazilian land were from various ethnicities and different African areas.
Gilberto Freyre noted the significant differences between these groups. Some Sudanese people such as the Hausa, the Fula, and others were Islamic, communicated or spoke Arabic, and many were literate (able to read and write) in this language. Freyre noted that many enslaved people were more educated than their slave masters because many Muslim slaves could read and write Arabic. In contrast, many Portuguese Brazilian slave masters were illiterate in Portuguese. These slaves of more outstanding or significant Berber and Arab influence went to Bahia. In the present day, the women’s dress from the Bahia region has Muslim influences (the Arabic turban on the head).
The Slave trade was a big business that involved 100s of vessels and 1000s of people in Brazil and Africa. There were officers on the African coast that traded or sold the slaves to 100s of small regional dealers in Brazil. In the early 19th century (1812), half of the 30 wealthiest traders of Rio de Janeiro were slave merchants or traders. The margins were large. In 1810, if a slave trader would purchase or buy a slave in Luanda, they would go for 70000 reis. If the slave trader decides to sell the slave in the District of Diamantina (Minas Gerais), the slave will go for up to 240000 reis. With tax obligations, the nation collected a year equal to 18m reais with the business of the slave trade. In Africa, people kidnapped the Africans as prisoners of war or offered them a tribute payment to a chief.
The traders, who were blacks too, took the slaves to the coast, where the Portuguese slave merchants’ agents would buy them. Until the early 18th century, the agents made such purchases with smuggled gold. In 1703, Portugal prohibited the use of gold for this use. Since then, they began to use the colony’s goods, such as tobacco, textiles, sugar, and cachaca, to purchase or buy the slaves.
More than 30% of Africans lost their lives between the regions of capture and the African coast in the African region. Another 15% lost their lives in the vessels crossing the Atlantic Ocean between Brazil and the African region. The journey could take more than 30 days from the Atlantic coast, approximately 33 days to 43 days. From Mozambique, it could take more than 70 days. Once in Brazil, from 10% to 12% of the slaves also lost their lives in the places where people took them, and their future masters bought them. As a result, only 45% of the Africans that slave handlers took or captured in Africa to be slaves in Brazil remained or survived. Darcy Ribeiro estimated that slave traders captured some 12m Africans to take them to Brazil.
Slavery in Brazil
It was during this time when an epic moment occurred in Brazil. An African by the name Ganga Zumba, a slave, attempted to resist the Europeans and even went ahead to form his own African Kingdom, which he became the ruler. Brazil got more than 30% of all African slaves exchanged, and people sent close to 4m slaves to Brazil. Starting around 1550, the Europeans (Portuguese) started to trade African slaves to work in the sugar farms once the local Tupi people deteriorated. During the colonial era, slavery was a mainstay of the Brazilian economy, especially in sugarcane production and mining. Muslim slaves, called Male in Brazil, produced one of the most significant slave rebellions in the New World, when in 1835, they attempted to wrest control of Salvador, Bahia. The epic event was called the Male Rebellion or the Male Revolt.
The Male Revolt
The Male Revolt is also called the Great Revolt. The Male Revolt was a significant Muslim slave insurrection in Brazil. On a Sunday during the Ramadan event in January 1835, in Salvador da Bahia, a group of African Muslim slaves and freedmen rose against the authority. The rebellion occurred on Our Lady of Guidance’s feast day, a festival in the Bonfim’s church’s cycle of religious holidays. As a result, many worshippers journeyed to Bonfim for the weekend to celebrate. The authorities were in Bonfim to maintain peace and order during the celebration. The slaves knew about the Haitian Revolt, which happened between the late 18th century to early 19th century and wore necklaces with Jean-Jacques Dessalines’ image.
The Afro-Brazilian Religion
Most of the blacks are Christians, majorly Catholics. Afro-Brazilian religions such as Umbanda and Candomblé have a lot of followers. They are open to people of any color or race, and indeed, while the numbers of blacks are higher among practitioners of these faiths or religions than among the population. The Whites are a majority in the Umbanda religion and a significant minority in the Candomblé religion. They are focused majorly in big urban centers such as Recife, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, and Porto Alegre. In addition to Candomblé, the Umbanda religion also blends Catholic and Kardecist Spiritism faiths with African beliefs. African slaves that slave traders shipped or moved from the African continent to Brazil are the ones who are responsible for initially bringing Batuque, Candomblé, Tambor de Mina, and Xango to Brazil.
These African slaves would summon their male deities known as Voduns, Orixas, or Inkices with dances and chants they had brought from the African region. Persecutors have persecuted these religions in the past because of Catholic influence. However, the Brazilian authority has allowed them. In current practice, the Umbanda followers leave offerings of candles, food, and flowers in public areas or places for the spirits. People hide the Candomblé terreiros from a general view, except in popular events such as the Waters of Oxala and the lemanja Festival in the NE.
Afro-Brazilian Sports (Capoeira)
Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art that mixes or combines the elements of dance, music, and acrobatics. The African slaves in Brazil were the ones who developed Capoeira at the start of the 16th century. It is famous for its intricate and acrobatic maneuvers, often involving hands on the ground and upturned kicks. It focuses or emphasizes flowing movements rather than fixed stances. The Ginga, a rocking step, is usually the main point of the technique. An expert of the art is known as a capoeirista.
People incorporated music and dance in the system to hide the fact that they were practicing combating or fighting techniques. After the end of slavery in the Brazilian nation, the authority announced Capoeira to be illegal at the end of the 19th century. By the 1920s, the government started to relax its laws on its prohibition, and martial artists commenced to include the capoeira technique in their practices. By the 1970s, capoeira experts began moving around the globe, aiding the art to become internationally familiar. On 26th November 2014, UNESCO granted the capoeira technique a special protected status as an intangible cultural heritage or tradition.
Notable Afro-Brazilians in the Society
Most Afro-Brazilians have been famous in Brazilian society, especially in the arts, sports, and music. Many significant and noticeable Brazilian literature figures have been people of African descent, such as Machado de Assis, the most excellent Brazilian works writer. In music and dance, the talents of Afro-Brazilians have found productive ground for their growth and development. Some of the experts of samba are Pixinguinha, Geraldo Pereira, and Wilson Moreira.
Another field where Afro-Brazilians or black Brazilians have excelled very well is football. Some of these famous names in football are Ronaldinho, famous for his foot works, and Robinho. Influential athletes in other sports include NBA star players Leandro Barbosa and Nene.
Since the end of the military authoritarianism, the political involvement of Afro-Brazilians has improved. The 1st female senator, Benedita da Silva, is a Black. Other notable and important politicians include Senator Paulo Paim and the former mayor of Sao Paulo Celso Pitta.
The Afro-Brazilians have also excelled in the acting field, such as Ruth de Souza, Milton Goncalves, and Mussum.
In conclusion, we can say that Afro-Brazilians are one of the most remarkable people on the planet. Brazil did not become present-day Brazil until when the African arrived there.