Slavery in Brazil: Racial Population Dynamics

Brazilian slave home life
Figure 1.--This painting shows the interior of a slave hut. Notice the light-skinned baby, obviously the child of a white Portuguese man, either the woman's owner or a slave overseer. We do notvsee paintings like this in America, especially images showing white fatherhood so blantantly. The artist was Lisbon born Joaquim Cândido Guillobel (1787 - 1859). He was a Portuguese architect, artist, and cartographer. Obviously he was not a master painter, but his works are of historical interest and provide insughts into Brazilian life, in this case slave life. He arrived in Brazil in 1808 and painted the ork here about 1812. He remained in Brazil and made his home there.

The limited Portuguese female population meant that there an extensive mestizo population and eventually mulatto population developed. Unlike English North America, there was only a limited numbers of Portuguese families that emograted to Brazil. The Portuguese who came predominately men. like the Spanish Conquistadores in therest of the Americas. The Portuguese term was Bandeirantes. They came as conquerors seeking gold not as fmilies seeking religious freedom. The lack of Portuguese women meant that the men who came had no outlet for their sexual impules other than the Amerindian women. The result was that the Brazilian colonial population develoved a very substantial Mestizo popultion descending from the offspring pf Portuguese men and Amerindian womem. The legal foundation of slavery was not as well founded when the Portuguese founded the Brazilian colony. As a result, the tretment and relations with Amer-Indians, as bad as it was, was not as brutal as the way that captive Africans would be treated when they began to arrive (17th century) and then arrived in large numbers (18th century). One historian writes, ".., the crown began to recognize mestizo, or mixed native and other race, individuals as pseudo-Portuguese who were not to be enslaved. This allowed for the “white” population to remain in control of the insanely more numerous slave population because sexual relations with Indians were not as openly discouraged." [Lamb] The slave system was more fully developed as captive Africans developed. The Portuguese do not seem to have had the same moral reservtions that northern Europeans had toward relations with Africans, at least the intensity of this feeling was less profound. Brazilian society proved much more open to this than United States society. We are not sure just why. The earlier developed of a Mestizo population and the degree to which Brazilian 'Whites' had Amerindin blood may have been a factor. And the overall small number of Portuguese women who came to Brazil must hve been a factor. The occuption of Portugal by Islamicized African tribes may have been another factor here. As in the Caribbean, Brazilian sugar plantantions were very close to death camps, requiring the constabt arrival of new caotives to replenish the workforce. Survival required developing relations of some kind with the slave masters. And here the women had the best chance. Slave women had not way of resisting. Often it was purse avarice, essentially rape without legal condequences. But in some cases real bonds of affection developed. Some slave masters looked after their multto children. But at any rate, light-skinned slaves were mote likely to find privlidged posuriins in Brazil slave society. And light-skinned men had condiderable lattitude for upward mobility. And slave women could advance through relations with Portuguese/Brazilian men.And the most likely to achieve manumission.


Lamb, Thomas. “Portuguese relations with indigenous people of Brazil,” HSTCMP 358 (Spring 2015).


Navigate the Children in History Website:
[Return to the Main Brazilian slavery page]
[Return to the Main American slavery page]
[Return to the Main Brazilian history page]
[Return to the Main working page]
[About Us]
[Introduction] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Climatology] [Clothing] [Disease and Health] [Economics] [Freedom] [Geography] [History] [Human Nature] [Ideology] [Law]
[Nationalism] [Presidents] [Religion] [Royalty] [Science] [Social Class]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Children in History Home]

Created: 12:12 AM 3/1/2018
Last updated: 12:12 AM 3/1/2018