The Last African Slaves

On the occasion of Black History Month, Youmanity reports on the Quilombo do Remanso - a close community deep in the forest of the Chapada Diamantina National Park, Brazil. 

Quilombos are highly-nit communities established in many parts of the world. They were set up by former slaves to welcome runaway slaves, to fight colonial rule. Many were sought out and massacred by white farmers/miners in a bid to set ‘an example’ to other slaves.

It is reported that Brazil imported more African slaves than any other country. An estimated 4.9 million slaves from Africa were brought to Brazil during the period from 1501 to 1866.

The Quilombo do Remanso was set up as late as 1940 by Manuel Silva Pereira - known with affection by many as ‘Manoelzinho do Remanso’.  He founded his Quilombo in a very isolated spot, close to what is known as the Mini Pantanal - an area rich in flora and fauna.

"To this day, members of Quilombo do Remanso work together the land, rivers and lakes, sharing harvests. Until recently, because of their isolation, they copulated among cousins. Remarkably, no genetic disorders were ever observed on any of their offspring," stated Angelo Iudice, Chair of Youmanity, who visited the 250-soul community last April (see film below).

An historical note

Despite the fact that slavery was abolished by  Brazil's Lei Áurea ("Golden Act”) in 1888, slaves were still trafficked and forced into labour. In 2001 the Brazilian government freed more than 1,400 slave labourers from many different forced labor environments in different parts of the country. And, according to a  2007 BBC report, the Brazilian government declared to the United Nations that at least 25,000–40,000 Brazilians worked under work conditions "analogous to slavery."

In Britain, the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 abolished slavery throughout the British Empire. Of course, it took considerable debating before the law was actually passed as there were several members of the governing class who owned sugar/coffee plantations in the colonies. As such, the Act provided for compensation for slave-owners. This amounted to an astonishing £20 million (almost £20 billions in today's money), 40% of the Treasury's annual income. This meant that the British Government had to borrow £15 million from banker Nathan Mayer Rothschild. The money was not paid back until 2015.

It must be noted that, since the official abolishment of slavery in mid 19th century, many former slaves had no where to go. With no money, no education, no shelter and no protection, many had no choice, but to stay on, working for grace-and-favour for the same, old slave owners. Many people fell prey to coercion through debt, violence, physical and psychological threats. The level of coercion that slaves faced on a daily basis, made it difficult, if not impossible, to turn to the authorities to report the abuse.



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