Abolition in eight moves
The text is short and direct: “From this date, slavery is declared abolished in Brazil. All dispositions to the contrary are revoked”. Sixteen words that would change our future. With captivity ended, the country would enter a new prosperous and equalitarian phase. Celebration, joy, collective commotion in the streets.
A hundred and twenty years later, the promise outlined in that beautiful piece of paper sounds as old as it. At what point of the way did things go wrong?
Probably even before that May 13th 1888. In order to go back in time to try and understand the way Abolition was conceived and unfolded, we invited eight scholars to reflect on the various aspects of that historical moment.
The results reveal the “Brazilian trick” to end slavery. From the religious point of view, we grew apart from the North-American destiny. On the political level, the act’s authorship was fought over by republicans and monarchists. Princess Isabel became a saint, agrarian reform was shelved and the role of blacks themselves, ignored. To complete the picture, a flight to Africa of today, where slavery persists.
Forget about the elegant document on the side. In the next pages, Abolition gets real dimensions.
(RHBN. No. 32. May 2008. P. 15)