The Black Man in Slavery and Freedom in Colonial Brazil by A. J. R.

Russell-Wood Review by: Mary Karasch The Americas, Vol. 40, No. 2 (Oct., 1983), pp. 279-281 Published by: Academy of American Franciscan History Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/980769 . Accessed: 28/01/2013 07:14
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The Black Man in Slavery and Freedom in Colonial Brazil. By A. J. R. RussellWood. (New York: St. Martins Press, 1982. Pp. xiii, 295. Index. Notes. Bibliography. $27.50.) Titles for books are often chosen with a particularmarket in mind; in this case, that of college courses on comparative slavery or the African Diaspora. In spite of its title, this is not a study of the black man per se in colonial Brazil;but rathera series of essays by a leading scholar on various aspects of Brazilian slavocratic society, including Portuguese officials, Mineiro slaveowners, pardo freedpersons, and free people of color, as well as slaves. A principalcontribution is the author's integration of these disparate groups into a portrait-or at least a preliminary sketch-of colonial Brazil. Thus, professors in search of new books for their advanced courses in Brazilian colonial history will find it useful to have some of Russell-Wood's previously published essays conveniently available in book form, while graduate students will appreciate his references to fascinating documents he has garnered through careful research in Brazil and Portugal. Since the Black Man appears to be designed to summarize the author's recent thinking on the nature of slavery and race relations in colonial Brazil, I am sure he himself recognizes the gaps in his material but that his intent is to publish a summary of his research to date in order to facilitate future studies. Indeed, I expect the Black Man will shape some of our future ways of looking at Brazilian colonial society, for it raises important questions and provides a perspectivethat illuminates patterns poorly perceived in previous studies on colonial Brazil. Although those unfamiliar with Brazilian history may find much that is new and insightful to them, scholars in the field of slavery and the African Diaspora will be disappointed. The fault, however, lies not with the author but with the extraordinary gaps in the scholarship on slavery and the African in colonial Brazil. Although North American scholars have access to numerous primaryand secondary sources on slavery in the United States, Brazilianists such as RussellWood must do the initial spade work themselves in turning up documentation on 279

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BOOK REVIEWS

slaves in colonial Brazil. Each new dissertation produced, for example, Rae Jean Dell Flory's excellent "Bahian Society in the Mid-Colonial Period," or James Kiernan'sfine statistical study on manumission in colonial Paraty, as well as each new article or book by Stuart B. Schwartz or Katia M. de Queir6s Mattoso on Bahia, challenges our previous view of slavery in a particularregion and / or time period. At this stage of research, a comprehensive, synthetic study of the AfroBrazilian in colonial Brazil is not yet possible. Nonetheless, there are some problems in the book that professors should be aware of when they use it with classes. First, Russell-Wood presumes a more detailed knowledge of Brazilian colonial history than typical undergraduatesin comparative slavery and African Diaspora courses possess. Since his concern is to document the complexity of the Brazilian racial and social strata in colonial Brazil and the differing roles of the free, freed, and enslaved gente de cor (people of color), he surveys so many different groups that they sometimes become confused to the point that undergraduateswill be uncertain whether the author is discussing freedpersons (forros or libertos), free persons, or slaves; or blacks, pardos (mulattos), cabras, or other racially mixed individuals. The use of "coloured," although a direct translation of gente de cor, has negative connotations to Black students in the United States, while the use of mulatto ratherthan pardo is also problematic. At least in early nineteenth-century Rio de Janeiro, pardos used that term for self-identification and found mulato offensive. A more serious problem is that the African component of the story is largely missing. The author avoids either a survey of the slave trade or of ethnic origins to help explain the African contributions to the cultural formation of colonial Brazil. Although his intent is to define their "degree of adaptation to the New World and the extent to which blacks and mulattos could maintain an identity, and exercise self-determination and freedom of thought and action in a whitedominated slavocratic society" (p. 26), he does not identify the Africans or explain how they adapted to colonial Brazil. By emphasizing the importation of Mina slaves from West Africa to the mines of Minas Gerais, he leaves the impression that Brazilian slave culture came to be dominated by West African traditions (this follows Gilberto Freyre and others); but much in colonial slave society may only be explained by religious and cultural traditions from West Central Africa, i.e., Kongo/ Angola. Why, for example, did the slaves crown Kings of Congo and remember Queen Nzinga of seventeenth-century Angola if they came from the Mina coast? The sources of Africans and their culture are yet to be studied for the colonial period, but they are fundamental for an understanding of the Afro-Brazilian culture into which successive waves of forced or voluntary immigrants would assimilate. Undergraduates will also find it difficult to follow him through various regions and time periods. Unfortunately, he provides the beginning student with little sense of change over time and/or place. There are only passing references to plantation slavery in the rest of Brazil or to cattle ranching in the Northeast or the

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BOOK REVIEWS

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far South. By concentrating on mining slavery in Minas Gerais he leaves the student reader with a distorted image of Brazilian slavery. To correct this, professors should plan to supplement this section with lectures and readings on plantation slavery. Another difficult research problem is that of the black family and kinship patterns in colonial Brazil. In an attempt to identify the issues, Russell-Wood has drawn on recent scholarship on the black family in the Americas, but his chapter suggests that the same quality of data does not yet exist for colonial Brazil. Students, however, will find this section helpful for the models and the questions to be asked about the slave family in colonial Brazil. His chapter on collective behaviour-the brotherhoods-is the strongest in the book and should be requiredreading of all students of colonial Brazil, but his emphasis on black and pardo Catholic brotherhoods needs to be balanced by an equally detailed treatment of African religions. In part, his omission is due to the nature of the sources that detail the persecution of African religious leaders rather than ones that describe African resistance to official repression. On the whole, his tendency is to perceive blacks as passive victims rather than as active participants in the preservation of their culture, religion, and identity. In particular, he downgrades the phenomenon of widespread revolt and quilombo (fugitive slave settlement) formation, except for Minas Gerais, and suggests that they were "infinitely rarer"than official correspondence would indicate (p. 133). When Brazil was still covered with immense forests, cities were few, and soldiers were largely limited to garrisons, one would have to prove that slaves on isolated plantations and mines did not rise up, kill their overseers, and escape to quilombos in the interior as they did in the nineteenth century. Furthermore, the manner in which the map of Brazil is covered with placenames associated with quilombos suggests their extent and age in Brazil. The task for future scholars is to search for and locate the documents that establish the number of quilombos and slave revolts in the colonial period. In brief, Russell-Wood identifies some of the principal research tasks before students of the Afro-Brazilian in colonial Brazil. It is our hope that his collection of essays will initiate new directions in scholarly research on Afro-Brazilian history in the colonial period.
Oakland University MARY KARASCH

Demographic Collapse: Indian Peru, 1520-1620 By Noble David Cook. Cambridge Latin American Studies, No. 41. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981. Pp. x, 308. Maps. Tables. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $37.50.) The debate over the size of the Indian populations of the New World at the time of initial European contact has in recent years moved increasingly from

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