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Brazilian Abolitionism, Its Historiography, and the Uses of Political History

Black Caribbean Literature (BCL)
Needell,Jeffrey D. (Author)
Journal Article
Publication Date:
May, 2010
United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press
African American Research Center, Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject Term:
History, Blacks, Brazil, Historiography, South America, Politics, Political mobilization, Radicalism, Social Class, Reformism, Abolition of slavery, Urban politics, Elites, Dantas, Júlio, Agency, Wanderley, João Maurício, 1815-1889
Explanations of the Abolitionist movement's success in Brazil (1888) have, since the 1960s and 1970s, emphasized the movement's material context, its class nature, and the agency of the captives. These analyzzes have misunderstood and gradually ignored the movement's formal political history. Even the central role of urban political mobilisation is generally neglected; when it is addressed, it is crippled by lack of informed analysis of its articulation with formal politics and political history. It is time to recover the relationship between Afro-Brazilian agency and the politics of the elite. In this article this is illustrated by analysing two conjunctures critical to the Abolitionist movement: the rise and fall of the reformist Dantas cabinet in 1884-85, and the relationship between the reactionary Cotegipe cabinet (1885-88), the radicalisation of the movement, and the desperate reformism that led to the Golden Law of 13 May 1888.