Cover image for Children of God's Fire: A Documentary History of Black Slavery in Brazil Edited by Robert Edgar Conrad

Children of God's Fire

A Documentary History of Black Slavery in Brazil

Edited by Robert Edgar Conrad


$40.95 | Paperback Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-01321-3

544 pages
6" × 9"

Children of God's Fire

A Documentary History of Black Slavery in Brazil

Edited by Robert Edgar Conrad

“Conrad's Children of God's Fire [originally Princeton, 1984] provides abundant material for historians and students of African slavery in Brazil to understand what the slaves actually experienced. It is an invaluable contribution both to the scholarly examination of Brazilian slavery and to the evolving debate on comparative slave systems in the Americas. . . . Conrad's documentary collection makes the primary evidence of the real character of Brazilian slavery available to a much wider audience.”


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“Conrad's Children of God's Fire [originally Princeton, 1984] provides abundant material for historians and students of African slavery in Brazil to understand what the slaves actually experienced. It is an invaluable contribution both to the scholarly examination of Brazilian slavery and to the evolving debate on comparative slave systems in the Americas. . . . Conrad's documentary collection makes the primary evidence of the real character of Brazilian slavery available to a much wider audience.”
“Conrad’s book will stand as an indispensable teaching aid for those anxious to flesh out existing monographs. The wealth of documents within his collection will surely enable students to look with profit at Brazilian slavery at the same time as they study the servile institution elsewhere in the Americas, where such materials have long been available.”
“By the publication of these 117 documents, most translated from the Portuguese, Robert Conrad has removed any reason for ignorance [about slavery in Brazil], for they represent an unrelieved chronicle of the oppression of one race by another. . . . Sources include British consular reports, travelers’ narratives, newspaper advertisements, sermons, regional laws, Jesuit accounts, records of the Brazilian house of deputies, and reports by a select committee of the British house of lords and personal correspondence. Of special interest are seven documents attributable to persons of African descent. . . . This selection is a major contribution to the literature and is required reading for students of Brazilian history, of comparative colonialism and colonialism in the Americas, and of systems of slavery.”
“A landmark in the historiography of slavery.”

Robert E. Conrad is the author of The Destruction of Brazilian Slavery, 1850-88 (1972; reissued Krieger, 1993), World of Sorrow: The African Slave Trade to Brazil (1986), and translator/editor of Sandino: The Testimony of a Nicaraguan Patriot, 1921-1934 (1990).


List of Illustrations xiii

Preface xv

Acknowledgments xxvii

Part I. "Men of Stone and of Iron": The African Slave Trade

1.1. The Beginnings of the Portuguese-African Slave Trade in the Fifteenth Century, as Described by the Chronicler Gomes Eannes de Azurara 5

1.2. The Enslavement Process in the Portuguese Dominions of King Philip III of Spain in the Early Seventeenth Century 11

1.3. A Portuguese Doctor Describes the Suffering of Black Slaves in Africa and on the Atlantic Voyage (1793) 15

1.4. A Young Black Man Tells of His Enslavement in Africa and Shipment to Brazil about the Middle of the Nineteenth Century 23

1.5. An Ex-Slavetrader's Account of the Enslavement Process in Africa and the Illegal Traffic to Brazil (1848–1849) 28

1.6. "It Was the Same as Pigs in a Sty": A Young African's Account of Life on a Slave Ship (1849) 37

1.7. A Slave Revolt at Sea and Brutal Reprisals (1845) 39

1.8. A British Physician Describes the State of Africans upon Their Arrival in Brazil (1841–1843) 43

1.9. A British Clergyman's Impressions of the Valongo Slave Market in Rio de Janeiro (1828) 48

Part II. "A Hell for Blacks": Slavery in Rural Brazil

2.1. An Italian Jesuit Advises Sugar Planters on the Treatment of Their Slaves (1711) 55

2.2. A Royal Decree on the Feeding of Slaves and Their Days Off (1701) 60

2.3. "I Doubt that the Moors Are So Cruel to Their Slaves": The Feeding of Slaves in Late Colonial Bahia 61

2.4. The Masters and the Slaves: A Frenchman's Account of Society in Rural Pernambuco Early in the Nineteenth Century 63

2.5. "The African Man Transformed into the American Beast": Slavery in Rural Pernambuco in the 1840s 71

2.6. Practical Advice on the Management of Plantation Slaves (1847) 77

2.7. Slave Life on a Plantation in the Province of Rio de Janeiro in the Late Nineteenth Century 79

2.8. A Medical Report on Slaves on Five Coffee Plantations in the Province of Rio de Janeiro (1853) 86

2.9. "There Are Plantations Where the Slaves Are Numb with Hunger": A Medical Thesis on Plantation Diseases and Their Causes (1847) 91

2.10. The Annual Work Routine on Plantations in Maranhao in the Mid-Nineteenth Century 96

2.11. A Brazilian Senator Comments on the High Mortality among Rural Slave Children in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century 99

2.12. A Bahian Sugar Planter Registers His Slaves (1872) 100

Part III. Slave Life in Cities and at the Mines

3.1. Slave Life in Rio de Janeiro as Seen through Newspaper Advertisements (1821) 111

3.2. A North American Describes Slave Life in Rio de Janeiro (1846) 115

3.3. A Royal Navy Surgeon Discusses the Black Coffee Carriers of Rio de Janeiro (1848) 124

3.4. The Sedan Chair and the Hammock: Urban Transportation in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries 126

3.5. Slave Prostitutes in the Brazilian Capital (1871) 129

3.6. Newspaper Advertisements for Black Wet Nurses (1821–1854) 133

3.7. A French Doctor with Twelve Years of Medical Experience in Brazil Advises Mothers on Choosing a Black Wet Nurse (1843) 135

3.8. Was the Black Wet Nurse a Transmitter of Disease? A Medical Debate in Rio de Janeiro (1846) 137

3.9. The Black Wet Nurse: A Status Symbol (1863) 139

3.10. Slave Workers at the Diamond Washings of Tejuco, Minas Gerais, in the Early Nineteenth Century 140

3.11. Black Miners at a British-Owned Gold Mine in the 1860s 143

3.12. "Common Graves": How City Slaves Were Buried 147

Part IV. "From Babylon to Jerusalem": Slavery and the Catholic Church

4.1. Slavery and Church Doctrine: The Archbishop of Bahia Rules on Slave Evangelization and Aspects of Their Treatment (1707) 154

4.2. "Children of God's Fire": A Seventeenth-Century Jesuit Finds Benefits in Slavery but Chastizes Masters for Their Brutality in a Sermon to the Black Brotherhood of Our Lady of the Rosary 163

4.3. A Jesuit Friar Writes on Slave Marriage and Immoral Acts Forced by Masters upon Their Slaves (1700) 174

4.4. The Black Brotherhood of Our Lady of the Rosary in Recife in the Eighteenth Century 178

4.5. The Archbishop of Bahia Staunchly Supports Slavery and the Slave Trade (1794) 180

4.6. Slaves as Prizes in a Lottery Benefiting the Santa Casa da Misericórdia in Ouro Prêto (1825) 182

4.7. A Catholic Brotherhood Is Authorized to Buy and Sell Slaves (1842) 185

4.8. A British Resident of Pernambuco Describes the Beneficial Effects of Catholicism on Slaves, Notably upon Those Belonging to Plantations of the Benedictine Order (about 1815) 185

4.9. A Slave Revolt at a Carmelite Estate in Pará (1865) 192

4.10. "The Negroes Were Holding Their Saturnalia": A Popular Festival at the Church of Our Lady of Bomfim in Bahia (1860) 194

Part V. Relations between the Races

5.1. "The Fact Remains that They Are Black": Racial Attitudes in Eighteenth-Century Portugal and Brazil 203

5.2. "Even a Considerable Tinge Will Pass for White": A British Resident of Pernambuco Analyzes Brazilian Racial and Social Categories Early in the Nineteenth Century 210

5.3. Four Classes of Blacks: The Observations of a British Clergyman in Rio de Janeiro (1828) 216

5.4. Official Acts Opposing or Outlawing Discrimination against Mulattoes and Free Blacks (1689 and 1849) 220

5.5. The Influence of Black and Mulatto Household Slaves upon the Character of the Brazilian Upper Class 221

5.6. Racial Conflict in Nineteenth-Century Maranhão 225

5.7. "Who Am I?" A Mulatto Ex-Slave Ridicules in Verse the Bigotry of His Racially Mixed Fellow Brazilians (1859) 229

5.8. A Popular Verse Suggests Portuguese and Brazilian Attitudes toward Racial Mixing (1826) 231

5.9. A Renowned Brazilian Mulatto Encounters Prejudice in New York but Is Rescued by Brazilian Friends: A Contrast in Race Relations (1873) 232

Part VI. "Peculiar Legislation": Slavery and the Law

6.1. "This Dark Blotch on Our Social System": An Analysis of the Legal Status of Slaves and Freedmen in Brazilian Society (1866) 237

6.2. Legal Restrictions on the Activities of Slaves and Free Non-Whites in Portugal (1521, 1545, 1559, and 1621) 245

6.3. Restrictions on the Activities of Slaves in Eighteenth-Century Brazil 247

6.4. Special Legal Provisions Concerning Slaves Promulgated in the First Years of the Empire 251

6.5. The Government of Bahia Orders Special Measures to Restrict and Control the Province's Slave Population (1822) 254

6.6. The Province of Rio de Janeiro Restricts the Activities of Slaves, Free Africans, and Other Foreigners to Reduce the Threat of Slave Rebellion (1836) 256

6.7. Local Ordinances Bearing on Slavery from Six Provincial Law Collections (1833–1866) 259

6.8. Could a Slave Acquire His Freedom against His Master's Will by Offering Him His Value? Two Legal Opinions and the Negative Decision of the Council of State (1853–1854) 267

6.9. A Master Abuses His Adolescent Slave Girl: A Court Case of 1883-1884 273

6.10. "And We Are the Best of Masters!": An Abolitionist Writes on the Legal System, Punishment, and the Extraordinary Power of the Master Class (1837) 281

Part VII. "Shamefully Torn before Thy Eyes": Corporal Punishment

7.1. The Governor of Grao Para and Maranhão Informs the Portuguese King of Cruel Punishments Inflicted upon Indian Slaves (1752) 289

7.2. "This Rustic Theology": A Catholic Priest Admonishes Slaveholders about the Cruel Punishment of Their Slaves (1758) 292

7.3. Advice on Plantation Punishment from an Agricultural Handbook (1839) 297

7.4. Lashes Inflicted upon Slaves at the Jail (Calabouço) in Rio de Janeiro (1826) 301

7.5. "The Scene Was Deeply Afflicting": A Britisher Describes the Punishment of a Slave at the Rio Calabouço Early in the Nineteenth Century 303

7.6. "This, Then, Is Not a Crime": The Trial of a Coffee Planter Accused of Brutal Punishment (1878) 305

7.7. Changing Attitudes: The Minister of Justice Cautions Provincial Presidents on the Dangers of Excessive Punishment (1861) 314

7.8. A Government Report of the Deaths of Two Slaves Caused by Brutal Punishment (1887) 315

Part VIII. The Perils of Being Black

8.1. An Unconditional Grant of Freedom (1851) 319

8.2. A Conditional Grant of Freedom (1827) 319

8.3. The "Liberation" of Eight Legally Free Children (1878) 320

8.4. A Slave Petitions for Protection from His Master (1876) 321

8.5. Disposing of Stray Blacks, Beasts, and Cattle (Bens do Evento) (1728) 322

8.6. The President of Rio Grande do Norte Regulates Disposal of Bens do Evento (1862) 323

8.7. A Public Notice of Human Bens do Evento Lodged in a Jail in Parana (1857) 326

8.8. An Auction of Human Bens do Evento in Rio de Janeiro (1867) 326

8.9. A Lawyer Deplores the Legal Concept of Human Bens do Evento (1873) 327

8.10. The Precariousness of Freedom: The Statement of a Black Man Named John Eden (1843) 330

8.11. A Royal Decree Condemning "Free Africans" to Fourteen Years of Involuntary Servitude (1818) 332

8.12. A Scottish Doctor Reports on the Mistreatment of "Free Africans" (1838) 333

8.13. An Ex-Guardian of "Free Africans" Describes Their Treatment (1866) 338

8.14. An "Emancipado" Is Granted His Final Certificate of Freedom (1864) 339

8.15. The Services of "Ingênuos" (Freeborn Children of Slave Women) Are Placed in Public Auction (1882) 341

8.16. "This Very Barbarous and Inhuman Traffic": A Bahian Planter-Politician Seeks to Abolish the Inter-Provincial Slave Trade (1854) 343

8.17. A Britisher Describes the Inter-Provincial Slave Trade of the 1850s 351

8.18. A Member of the Chamber of Deputies from Bahia Describes the Overland Slave Traffic (1880) 354

8.19. Slaves Are Bought in Northern Brazil for Shipment to the South 355

8.20. Father Pompeu's Son 356

Part IX. "A State of Domestic War": How Slaves Responded

9.1. Newspaper Advertisements Offer Rewards for the Return of Runaways 362

9.2. A Runaway Bookbinder, Fortunato (1854) 366

9.3. The Great Seventeenth-Century Quilombo of Palmares: A Chronicle of War and Peace 366

9.4. "White Man Won't Come Here": A Twentieth-Century Folk Memory of Palmares 377

9.5. "The Armadillo's Hole": A Predatory Quilombo Near Bahia (1763) 379

9.6. The Police Chief of Rio de Janeiro Suggests Ways to Eliminate Quilombos Near the City (1824) 381

9.7. "All the Huts Were Burned": The Destruction of Quilombos Near Rio de Janeiro (1876) 384

9.8. The Destruction of Quilombos in Maranhão (1853) 386

9.9. "A Sort of Enchanted Land": Quilombos of the Amazon Valley in the 1850s 389

9.10. The Captured Residents of a Runaway-Slave Settlement Are Claimed as Slaves but Freed by a Legal Decision (1877) 392

9.11. Slaves of Minas Gerais Plot Revolt (1719) 394

9.12. "The Slaves' View of Slavery": A Plantation Rebellion Near Ilheus, Bahia, and the Rebels' Written Demands for a Settlement 397

9.13. Slaves Rebel in the Captaincy of Bahia (1814) 401

9.14. Soldiers and Africans Clash in Bahia's Streets (1835) 406

9.15. Insubordination, Assassinations, Rebellions, Conspiracies, and Runaways: A Report of the Minister of Justice (1854) 411

Part X. "The Noblest and Most Sacred Cause": The Abolition Struggle

10.1. "Perhaps No Nation Ever Sinned More against Humanity than Portugal": Brazil's First Prime Minister Fires an Opening Salvo in the Struggle against Slavery (1823) 418

10.2. A Defense of the Slave Trade in Response to British-Inspired Abolitionism (1823) 427

10.3. Proposals for Gradually Abolishing Slavery (1865) 431

10.4. "Slave Property Is as Sacred as Any Other": A Chamber Member Opposes Free-Birth Legislation (1871) 436

10.5. "As If It Were a Crime to Be Born": A Mulatto Senator Passionately Defends the Free-Birth Law (1871) 446

10.6. "We Are Seeking Our Country's Highest Interests": An Abolitionist Analyzes Slavery and Calls for a Break with the Past (1883) 451

10.7. A Municipal Chamber in Sao Paulo Gives Its Opinions on the Slavery and Labor Questions (1885) 458

10.8. The Mulatto Editor and Abolitionist, Jose do Patrocinio, Condemns the Government's Slavery Policy (1885) 462

10.9. An Ex-Abolitionist Recalls the Anti-Slavery Struggle in São Paulo (1918) 466

10.10. "Ceasing to Consider the Slave a Mere Laboring Machine": A Paulista Senator Calls for Quick Solutions to the "Servile Question" (December, 1887) 472

10.11. "Hours of Bitterness and Terror": A Planter's Account of the Ending of Slavery in Sao Paulo (March 19, 1888) 476

10.12. "Slavery Is Declared Abolished" (May 13, 1888) 480

Chronology of Important Events 483

Glossary of Portuguese, African, and Brazilian Terms 489

Selected Bibliography 494

Index 499

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