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Thread: How the enslaved in #Brazil used the u.s. civil war (1861-1865) to force Brazilian slavemasters into the crisis that led to "abolition".

First, some very quick background.
1) More slaves captured from Africa were brought to Brazil than any other colonial nation in "the amerikas". Millions of those were after britain supposedly "abolished" slave trading in 1807. Shit did NOT stop when they say it did.

2) Like everywhere else, slaves fought back & ran away from the beginning. Brazil is well known for its own communities of maroons established in the forests & mountains, known as #quilombos. There were always some around & a few remarkable ones lasted centuries.
So, on to the main story. This state of massive & widespread slavery with a constant influx of new captives had mediated life Brazil since the 16th century. There were of course slave revolts, a few of them being famous, but the u.s. civil war caused them to intensify. Why?

Well, it helps to understand first of all that Brazil & the u.s. were quite connected in the 19th century (1800s). International commerce largely takes place by sea.
& if you're on the east coast of the amerikas & want to sail to the west (or beyond into the Pacific Ocean) you pretty much have to go all the way around BOTH north & south amerika. Remember, the Panama Canal wasn't a thing yet. So, since Brazil covers a lot of the east coast of south amerika, u.s. merchant ships would stop in Brazilian ports quite often. & they did plenty of business.
Let's shift perspective from the "merchants" to the slaves, especially considering that quite often they WERE the business & even when Black slaves weren't arriving or leaving after being captured or sold from some place or another, they were still involved in the coastal trade. Working on the docks, working on ship's crews, transporting goods (including each other) to & from the ports & the other areas of the country, etc.
Most importantly for this thread, they talked, listened, spread information around. Especially shit slavers didn't want them to.

When the Haitian Revolution happened, word got out, & as much as slaveowners tried to not talk about it around people who might realize they should do the same damn thing, slaves found out & in many places rose up with similar aspirations. Clandestine networks were critical for this kind of insurrectionary organizing.
So we have a young united states with economic ties to Brazil & some enslaved people across the continents that are discussing the possibility of no longer being slaves - and obtaining this freedom by revolutionary war - any chance they get. Maybe you can already see where this is going, but some of the details are still kind of interesting:
As the u.s civil war breaks out, obviously u.s. ships doing business in Brazil are affected. How? They take sides, fighting for control of supply lines. Ships with flags of the "confederate states of amerika" start showing up in ports like Bahia.

Officially, Brazil declares neutrality. But 1) by allowing the confederacy into their ports they're basically recognizing them as a nation 2) neither army in the war gives a shit about Brazilian sovereignty & they literally fight battles in Brazil.
Word about this gets out to slaves, ofc. Slavemasters are NOT tryna talk about this around them, but it's all over the news. & few slaves know how to read & write, but all it takes is *1* person who can to read, memorize, or repeat...

The 1860s see a huge spike in slave revolts all over Brazil. Protests, escapes to the quilombos (which are part of these information networks), kill-the-first-cracker-i-see shit, everything. Police suppressing these struggles find *newspapers* in slave quarters.
Many slaves also try to get onto battleships fighting on either side. Why? Well…all some people hear is: "the u.s. is fighting to end slavery!!", & so they expect if they can hop on a ship then they're on "free soil" (no longer Brazil) & slave law is no longer applicable.

You can probably guess that this might not have turned out well for people who didn't know which side was which based on the flags & hopped onto a confederate ship, or got caught in the attempt to flee to free soil.
There also aren't a lot of records of what happened to people after. But it worked for quite a few of them: escaped slaves from Brazil ended up in places like the Caribbean, canada, the u.k., & even Africa, especially Sierra Leone which was created as a "freed slaves colony" decades before this war broke out. & those who remained in Brazil shaped an ongoing resistance that peaked not during the u.s. civil war, but ultimately in the 1880s...
when Brazil finally declared all slaves legally free to avoid a state collapse (& white historians got to work giving all the credit to white abolitionists who feared "another Haiti" & wanted reforms to prevent that).

It's easy to say all this was inevitable in hindsight, but it truly wasn't, & every blow against the transatlantic slave trade came FIRST from Black rebellion & revolution, not the law.

#Abolition, in this context, is a white response to the existential threat of Black reprisal.

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