The Faces of Freedom: The Manumission and Emancipation of Slaves in Old World and New World Slavery

Slavery in Brazil
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By ensuring the Brazilian sugar industry a constant supply of slaves at low cost, this system enabled sugar production in the Colony to weather such an adverse international market environment. There is evidence to suggest that, during this turbulent period for the sugar industry, manumission acquired fresh impetus. Of course, manumission had been occurring in the Colonies since the very beginning, but the fact that the first sequential documentation related to the practice dates only to the second half of the 17 th Century could indicate that it only became widespread after this time.

The researcher Stuart Schwartz recorded and analysed a series of practices related to manumission that were later repeated throughout Portuguese America and the Brazilian Empire at different times and in different places.

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Among the more than one thousand manumission letters examined by the author, there was a constant ratio of two freed women to every manumitted male. Finally, many of these manumissions were granted to children aged 14 or under. The tendency to manumit slave-women of childbearing age, concluded Schwartz, compromised the possibilities of self-sustainable reproduction among the Brazilian slave population, which accentuated still further the structural role of the transatlantic slave trade in restocking the workforce This demographic pattern was consolidated and geographically expanded with the discovery of gold reserves at the turn of the 17 th into the 18 th Century.

The allure the chance of rapid enrichment exercised upon the metropolitan and colonial population was immense and triggered a gold rush to the mining regions. Besides the internal displacements, the mines also lured an even greater number of Portuguese immigrants, estimated at thousand individuals over the course of the 18 th Century. However, much of this migratory wave that flooded the region was compulsory in nature. The volume of transatlantic slave traffic into Portuguese America, which was already the largest in the New World, doubled in the first half of the Seventeen Hundreds.

From to some thousand African slaves came ashore at Brazilian ports, and most of these were destined for the gold mines. From to this rose to The slave trade reached its peak in the two decades that followed, with thousand enslaved Africans shipped to Portuguese America between and The enormous territorial and demographic expansion of Portuguese colonization in America in the 18 th Century saw a corresponding rise in economic, social and political tensions.

For the purposes of this essay, however, our main interest is in another kind of social conflict, that expressed in slave escapes, the formation of Maroon colonies and broader plans for a slave uprising. Many authors have argued that the specific conditions of the mining operations in the region gave the slaves more room to exercise autonomy and resist the control of their masters. That the gold mines were scattered throughout the captaincy, that the workers could receive a stake in the yield and that they enjoyed ample control over their own work as in the case of the slaves from the Coast of Mina, who were famed for their mining skills conferred a considerable degree of slave autonomy.

This meant that their masters rarely needed to employ coercive measures to ensure the regularity of extraction, which, in turn, enabled slaves to put money aside with which to buy manumission While the existence of channels for slave autonomy may well have made them more likely to stick to the status quo, it also provided greater scope for resistance.

In relation to the latter, historians note that many Maroon colonies in Minas Gerais very often maintained close commercial relations with the surrounding communities. In addition to these, researchers have also identified three planned slave uprisings , and , all of which were foiled in advance. Here we return to the question posed at the beginning of this essay: faced with this explosive social context, with a white population clearly outnumbered by the black, why did nothing similar to Palmares occur in Minas Gerais? The question becomes all the more intriguing when we recall that the precedent set by the Palmares haunted the public authorities of Minas throughout the entire first half of the 18 th Century.

As we have already seen, the prevailing response to the question is that hard-line legislation institutionalizing the slavehunter prevented the flowering of any more Palmares in Portuguese America. However, some historians offer an alternative explanation.

Slavery, Race and the Origins of American Freedom

Donald Ramos, for example, suggests that the very proliferation of small runaway slave settlements in Minas Gerais served to water down the region's power of resistance against slavery. Most interesting of all in Ramos' argument is the observation that manumissions fulfilled a similar role in shoring up the slave society.

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By , just over 10 percent of the slave population was mulatto. If the slaves in any way moved Northerners closer to supporting emancipation, it was not by flight, but by being drafted for menial duty by the Confederate armies. Within its mandate was a provision to authorize colonization attempts within the Spanish sphere of influence in the New World [5], Thereafter a second attempt to "plant" was made, sometime between and , but it also failed to root. Check all categories that are of interest to you. Foreigners in Japan: A Historical Perspective. Between and , the Dutch exported on an average — slaves annually from the Arakan-Bengal coast.

Indeed, the practice of manumission became widespread in Portuguese America from the 18 th Century. It is no accident that a substantial number of the studies on this issue look to Minas Gerais during this period.

Given the impossibility of reviewing all or even the most relevant of the works available on the theme, John Russell-Wood's recently presented summary proves extremely useful. Of all that can be said about the practice of manumission, for Russell-Wood, one thing all studies on the 18 th -century mines agree on is that.

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In its general outline, manumission in Minas Gerais basically repeated the model Stuart Schwartz encountered in Bahia at the close of the 17 th Century. This standard obeyed a basic rule: the further removed from the transatlantic slave trade, the greater were a slave's chances of receiving manumission. African men, the majority on the slave ships, hardly ever received manumission, though after one or two generations their descendents often did. In the late 18 th , early 19 th Centuries, Portuguese America presented a demographic configuration without parallel among the New World colonies.

In order to properly understand this difference, let us take a bird's-eye view of the other European colonies up to that time. Throughout the entire 18 th Century, the various sugar islands of the British and French Caribbean, their own slight differences apart, presented enormous unbalance between the number of free whites and black slaves. The latter wildly outnumbered the former, even in colonies with a relatively higher number of settlers of European origin. Barbados is a case in point, where there were always about four black slaves to each free white throughout the Seventeen hundreds.

In Saint-Domingue now Haiti on the eve of the uprising, however, there were as many as fifteen slaves to every white, while the number of freed blacks and mulattos never rose to match that of the slaves. In Jamaica, the proportion was even smaller The South of Continental British America and, later, the southern states of the North-American Republic, constituted another New World slave society of a bi-racial character.

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The Faces of Freedom. The Manumission and Emancipation of Slaves in Old World and New World Slavery The Atlantic World, Volume: 7. The Faces of Freedom: The Manumission And Emancipation of Slaves in Old World And New World Slavery (The Atlantic World) [Marc Kleijwegt] on.

If here the number of freed blacks and mulattos was far smaller than in the British and French Caribbean, there was demographic parity between the free white and black slave populations. By far the greatest demographic variety between the European colonists albeit with decisive support from the indigenous populations in continental colonies and the African slaves and their descendants was to be found in Spanish America. Portuguese America, on the other hand, undoubtedly was, although of a different type to the British and French Caribbean colonies and those in the southern United States.

The difference was Brazil's large freed black and Afro-descendant populations living side-by-side with a significant white society and vast slave majority, largely comprising Africans, though also with a lower percentage of American-born Creoles and Pardos. The amassment of this large population of freed blacks and mulattos fundamentally stemmed from the dynamic between the transatlantic slave trade and manumission.

According to Alencastro, the favouritism towards mulattos in Portuguese America can be seen in the facts that they were hired more frequently for skilled work, were admitted into the auxiliaries and, above all, were privileged when it came to manumission. Alencastro contrasts this reality with that of Portuguese Africa, where from the very beginning mulattos were placed on a par with the blacks. In Alencastro's own words:. The fact that this process was layered and eventually ideologised, even sensualised, does not erase its intrinsic violence, a consubstantial part of Brazilian society: there are mulattos in Brazil, but none in Angola, because here we had the systemic oppression of colonial slavery, while there did not In summary: in order to establish an abiding Brazilian slave society, one founded upon the incessant influx of foreigners, it was necessary to create safety mechanisms that could defuse the kind of tense social environment as simmered in the British and French Caribbean or even in Pernambuco in the 17 th Century.

The definitive proof of the validity of this equation is how free and freed blacks and mulattos related with the slave system: their main economic and social ambition was precisely to acquire slaves of their own, that is, to become masters themselves. Various recent works have documented the common practice of free, freed and even enslaved blacks and mulattos owning slaves.

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Given the dynamic of the slave flow into Brazil, the heaviest in the history of the Atlantic slave trade, the African slave was a socially inexpensive commodity This was what enabled slavery to spread throughout the fabric of Brazilian society and become such a singular system. This mechanism, in turn, proved a heavily decisive factor in the equally unparalleled economic configuration of Portuguese America.

The emergence of various urban centres throughout Minas Gerais and the growth of the old cities of Rio de Janeiro and Salvador also fuelled the domestic economy. Portuguese America therefore combined its diverse economic activities with the range of modalities of slave exploitation present throughout the New World: the mining and urban slavery of Spanish America, the slave plantations of the Caribbean and the production of provisions of the Chesapeake region.

One could even argue that this was also the configuration present in Spanish America, which had plantation slavery in the region of Caracas. However, there were three basic differences between the two that must not be forgotten. Firstly, we must compare the economic weight of the indigenous population in central Spanish America against the generalized use of slaves in Portuguese America. Thirdly, and most importantly, the transatlantic slave trade played a crucial role in fuelling economic growth in Portuguese America.

And here is a point of substantial divergence with the French and British colonies, where the slave trade was always controlled from the respective fatherlands. In Portuguese America, from the beginning of the 17 th Century, the slave trade was organized directly from the Brazilian ports, that is, the large slave dealers that ensured the supply were actually based in Recife, Salvador and Rio de Janeiro, rather than in Lisbon.

Quite the contrary, in fact, as it was precisely that social and economic configuration that had prepared the ground for such a quick response from the slave-owning producers of Portuguese America to the new and favourable conditions of the global market. For the purposes of this essay it would be interesting to examine the response from Bahia, as this will prove to be central to its argument.

With the uprising of , sugar and coffee production went into collapse on Saint-Dominigue, opening enormous space for the production of these commodities in other colonies in the Americas, coupled with the increase in demand for tropical products in countries at the threshold of the industrial revolution. Faced with this new context, the transatlantic slave trade into Bahia accelerated in order to meet the sugar industry's demands for new workers.

The resulting rise in the number of captives caused even the population of Salvador to swell From the late 17 th Century the zone of preference for slave traders supplying Bahia was the Coast of Mina, though some also operated out of Angola. This increase occurred for two reasons: firstly, the French and British were out of the equation because both had ceased to ship slaves to their colonies; secondly, regional warfare, sparked by the Jihad of Usman dan Fodio, was generating a steady supply of captives, many of whom were sent to Bahia. Anything like this systematic resistance to slavery had only ever been seen in the Palmares War and would only be equalled again in the abolitionist movement of the s.

What came of this resistance movement? Unlike similar slave uprisings in the British Caribbean, the spate of revolts in Bahia between and had no cumulative effect capable of putting the order of Brazilian slavery in check. The broader Atlantic context helps us to understand the real dimensions of the Bahia insurrections. While the revolts of Barbados , Demerara and Jamaica were decisive in stirring the anti-slavery campaign in the British Empire, the slave resistance of the s that eventually led to abolition in the Empire of Brazil had little to do with the historical experience of Bahia in the revolts of In a nutshell: though serious and violent, they did not undermine the slave system in Brazil.

The key to understanding this failure resides exactly in the rift that radically separated the African slaves and their Brazilian-born black and mulatto descendants. The latter did not participate in the African-led slave revolts in Bahia. Mulattos, Cabras and Creoles were the majority of those employed in controlling and repressing the Africans.

The Manumission and Emancipation of Slaves in Old World and New World Slavery

It was they who did the dirty work for the whites in maintaining order at the fountains and in the squares and streets of Salvador, invading and plundering the religious shrines on the outskirts, hunting down runaway slaves throughout the province and subduing slave rebellions wherever they arose The armoured plating provided by this systemic configuration in Brazil not only prevented the occurrence of any further Palmares, but, above all, any chance of a slave revolt like that of Saint-Dominigue.

During the forty-year period between the arrival of the Royal family in Brazil and the definitive end of the slave trade in , more than 1. Before the Negroes in Angola Portuguese West Africa embarked on the slave vessel for Brazil, they were baptized "en masse. Next, they had to learn the doctrines of the Church and the duties of the religion they were about to embrace. Slaves from the other parts of Africa were Christianized after a year following arrival, during which time they had to learn certain prayers.

These brotherhoods had their own versions of the Virgin Mary and Our Lady of the Rosary had her hands and face painted black. Properly speaking, a true slave has no legal rights. Perhaps the words privileges and permits are happier. At any rate, the obligations and restrictions in the Old South were far more stringent than those on the plantations and urban districts of Brazil. Privileges and restrictions for slaves in the South varied according to the laws of the States; wheras in Brazil the centralized colonial government tended to unify what slavery legislation there was.

In both countries, theoretically, a master was liable for indiscriminately killing his slaves or for practising cruelty. In practice, even the slightest defense of a maltreated slave was rarely heard before the magistrates, for no slave in the case of the South could bear witness against a white. In Brazil the ouvidor of the province was the one to punish the cruel master, but then, who would dare report?

In the Old South it was possible under certain circumstances for the slave to buy his own freedom, that is, if the master was kindly disposed. In Brazil, it is commonly affirmed that the master was obliged to free his slave if the latter could furnish a sum equivalent to his market price.

Furthermore, Christie, British envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary in Brazil during the period of the American Civil War, in a letter to Earl Russell in June, , declares that no such law actually exists on the statute books of Brazil, as that the slave has the right to appear before a magistrate, have his price fixed and to purchase his freedom. Moreover, the Brazilian slave exercised some right to change masters.

The master set a price upon his slave. Then the slave with a note, declaring the master's intentions, might seek out some neighboring planter with a good reputation, and if the desired new master decided to pay the price set, the old master, according to Luccock, [35] was obliged to sell the slave. A slave could be and was manumitted in both the United States and Brazil. In Brazil manumission could be accomplished in the following ways: 1 the slave could purchase himself; 2 his master could liberate him during his life; 3 or he could manumit him at his death; 4 a Negro woman who had brought ten children into the world by virtue of her tenth became free; 5 also, the price of a new-born babe was so slight, that often the infant was purchased its freedom by friends.

As for holding common ordinary citizen's rights, the Negro slave in both countries was out of consideration. In the Old South, for instance, a slave could be arrested, tried, and condemned with but one witness against him, and without a jury.