Zumbi dos Palmares: Hero of Brazil

“The legend of the Palmares quilombo…and its greatest leader, Zumbi, are central to the history and modern day struggle of Brazilians who recognize their African ancestry. All
over Brazil, there are or have been hundreds of organizations and cultural groups named after this legendary leader, as well as a national .holiday in recognition of black consciousness and also Brazil’s first and only predominantly black college.”

It is believed that Zumbi dos Palmares was born free in the Palmares region of Brazil in the year 1655. A strong, proud man who was unhappy with his social status, Zumbi decided to face his tormentors and liberate his people. He was the last of the military leaders of the Quilombo (Kimbundu word: “kilombo,” of the North Mbundu Bantu language in Angola, meaning “warrior village or settlement”) of Palmares. The Quilombo dos Palmares was a free society, which included the present day Brazilian coastal state of Alagoas.

 

Today, Zumbi is known as one of the great historic leaders of Brazil Quilombo dos Palmares was a self-sustaining republic of maroons located in "a region perhaps the size of Portugal in the hinterland of Bahia" (Braudel 1984). The Bahia Alagoas region of Brazil is where this free African settlement was located. At its height in the early 1600s, Palmares had a population of over 30,000. By 1630, it was described by the commentators as "the Promised Land" for escaped African slaves. King Ganga Zumba of Palmares offered emancipation for slaves entering its territories. Since the 1960s, November 20 – the date of Zumbi’s death – has been celebrated in Brazil as Black Awareness Day or Black Conscious Day (“Dia da Consciência Negra” in Portuguese). It is also a day on which to reflect upon the injustices of the Maafa (slavery) – from the first transport of African Atlantians (enslaved people) to Brazil in 1594 – and to celebrate the contributions to society and to the nation by Brazilian citizens of African descent. Additionally, May 13 is the national holiday in Brazil in honour of the Abolition of the Maafa in Brazil in 1850.

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