Zumbi dos Palmares (d. 1695)

Zumbi was the last leader of the Quilombo dos Palmares, an autonomous community of people of African descent, many of them former slaves, located in what is now Alagoas, Brazil, and which was once home to several thousand people. 

Said to have been captured by the Portuguese and given to a Catholic missionary as a child, he was baptized with the name Francisco, was taught the sacraments, learned Portuguese and Latin, and helped with daily mass. Zumbi escaped at the age of 15, returning to his birthplace, Palmares, where he eventually became known for his physical prowess and cunning in battle. He practiced capoeira, a martial art developed by Black slaves in colonial Brazil and used by the people of the Quilombo as a defense against the Portuguese and Dutch colonists who ruled the area in the seventeenth century.

Zumbi eventually took on the leadership of Palmares after the Quilombo’s leader, Ganga Zumba, was offered a deal by the region’s colonial governor to bring the independent community under Portuguese rule, which Zumbi found unacceptable as it ensured the freedom of the Quilombo’s Black community but did nothing to end slavery elsewhere in the colony. The Portuguese eventually succeeded in destroying part of the Quilombo, ending over half a century of autonomous rule. Zumbi went into hiding after this great loss, but was ultimately captured and beheaded by the Portuguese on November 20, 1695. His head was taken to the city of Recife to be displayed to the public as a warning. Today Zumbi is celebrated as a hero in Brazil. and the date of his death has been proclaimed a holiday, the Dia de Consciência Negra (Day of Black Awareness).

November 20 - Brazil celebrates Black Awareness Day

The Day of Black Awareness (“Dia da Consciência Negra” in Portuguese) is celebrated annually on November 20 in Brazil as a day on which to reflect upon the injustices of slavery (from the first transport of African slaves to Brazil in 1594) and to celebrate the contributions to society and to the nation by Brazilian citizens of African descent. It takes place during the Week of Black Awareness. 

The day is marked on the anniversary of the death of Zumbi dos Palmares (1655–1695), the last leader of the Quilombo dos Palmares. The Day of the Black Awareness. The date was first observed in the 1960s and has been on the school calendar since 2003.

According to Fly Brother, many people in Brazil are celebrating Black Awareness Month. But many others see this particular exercise as unnecessarily divisive and alien to Brazil’s culture of “inclusiveness and miscegenation.”

See more: http://afroeurope.blogspot.com.br/2012/11/november-20-brazil-celebrates-black.html


Jorge Ben Jor, “Zumbi” (1974)

This song is inspired by the seventeenth century Black Brazilian historical figure Zumbi dos Palmares.

E será que este homem realmente existiu?

Ninguém sabe responder

Zumbi é uma lenda, um herói lendário de uma história dentro da história do país que constituiu nossa nação.

Mesmo que este homem não tenha existido, ele é símbolo de um luta que está no seu sangue, que está no meu sangue, que foi derramado para que você, cidadão de classe média possa estar aí, livre.

A luta de Zumbi é a luta de todos, a luta dos negros, das mulheres, dos gays, dos deficientes e de todos aqueles que são excluidos e deixamos a margem de uma sociedade que privilegia o dinheiro a cultura e as pessoas ao negócio.

Todo dia é dia de Zumbi.

Brasil não é só corrupção, não é só prostituição, não é só desigualdade. Brasil não é só violência.
  Brasil é cultura, é Amazônia, é samba, é poesia. Brasil é capoeira, é chimarrão, é mar e céu azul. Brasil é índio, é afro, é branco, Brasil é colorido. É Tiradentes, é Zumbi dos Palmares, Brasil é Drummond, é Machado de Assis. Brasil é cultura, é sorriso fácil, é feijoada, é frevo. Brasil é carnaval, é futebol, é maracatu, é alma hospitaleira. Brasil é calor, é frio, é rio, é Ipanema. Brasil é baião, é forró, Brasil é Nordeste. Brasil tem seca? Tem! Mas Brasil é esperança, é persistência. Brasil é do povo que não desiste! Brasil é meu, é seu. Brasil não é só isso ou aquilo, Brasil é nosso!
—  H. Conrado

In Brazil, November 20 is the “Day of Black Consciousness”, a holiday commemorating Zumbi dos Palmares, a hero of the resistance against slavery, who was executed by the Portuguese in 1695. This past Thursday, about 500 demonstrators of the “Workers without Shelter Movement” (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem-Teto) marched through Rio de Janeiro’s upscale neighborhoods Ipanema and Leblon, demonstrating against the deficit in affordable housing and rising rents, which leave thousands without shelter. The date and place of the demonstration was chosen to display the roles that racism and social marginalization play in this.

Some of these photos appeared in an article (in German) on the “Latinorama” blog of the Berlin-based newspaper “taz”: “Recht auf Strand: Wohnungslose in Rio de Janeiro” by Niklas Franzen, which the information above is also taken from.