The Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on Africa and Its Diasporas, in co-operation with the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC) and Founders College, is pleased to announce a talk by Robert W. Slenes on “Malungos: Central African Culture and Insurgent Slave Identity on the Plantations of Brazil's Centre-South, 1791-1888”.
16:00 - 18:00 hrs.
June 14th, 2019
Senior Common Room, 305
"Following the slave revolution in Saint Domingue in the 1790's and the abolition of the slave trade to Britain's Caribbean colonies (1808), the introduction of African slaves to Brazil increased dramatically. This "second slavery" - more exploitative, more concentrated on large plantations - especially impacted Brazil's Centre-South (Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Minas Gerais). Commonly, on the large sugar and coffee plantations of this region between 1800 and 1850, the great majority of adult slaves were African-born, most of them from related cultural-linguistic groups in the western Central-African "Atlantic Zone". In this talk, Slenes presents the main arguments of his book in progress on the formation of an insurgent plantation slave identity that retained strong Central African Cultural markers, even as late as Abolition in 1888. He will focus particularly on a major plan for slave rebellion in Rio's Paraíba Valley in 1848, organized around a Central African "cult of affliction-fruition", widespread throughout the Centre-South. The argument is that Brazil was forced to abolish the trade in 1850, not only by the threat of a British blockade of the main ports (and thus of government revenue from tariffs) but also by the spectre - recognized particularly by members of Brazil's Liberal Party - of widespread rebellion by slaves who were well-aware of British intentions. The book thus contributes to the recent historiography on the Americas that stresses the active role of bonded workers in bringing the slave trade and slavery to an end".
Robert W, Slenes is Professor of History (retired) at the São Paulo State University of Campinas (Unicamp) in Brazil and Visiting Senior Professor at the Federal University of Bahia, in Salvador. His PhD thesis was on “The Demography and Economics of Brazilian Slavery, 1850-1888” (Stanford University, 1976). Since then, his research has focused on the social and cultural history of slavery, with an emphasis on the experience of Central Africans in the diaspora to Brazil´s Southeast. His publications include several articles on this subject and a book about the enslaved family on the plantations of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in the nineteenth century: Na senzala, uma flor - Esperanças e recordações na formação da família escrava (1999; 2nd ed., 2011). He is currently preparing a book on Central African culture and slave identity in the same region and period.