Zumbi

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Zumbi dos Palmares
Zumbidospalmares.jpg
Bronze head of Zumbi in Brasília, Brazil
King of Quilombo dos Palmares
Predecessor Ganga Zumba (Uncle)
Successor Camuanga (son) (de jure) of the resistance, kingdom destroyed.
Spouse Dandara
Born Nzumbi, Francisco
1655
Alagoas, Portuguese Colony of Brazil
Died November 20, 1695 (aged 39–40)
Quilombo dos Palmares (Today Alagoas, Brazil)
Religion Afro-Brazilian religion, perhaps Roman Catholic
Occupation Altar server, warrior, later king of Palmares

Zumbi (1655 – November 20, 1695), also known as Zumbi dos Palmares (Portuguese pronunciation: [zũˈbi dus pɐwˈmaɾis]), was the last of the leaders of the Quilombo dos Palmares, a fugitive settlement in the present-day state of Alagoas, Brazil.

Quilombos[edit]

Quilombos were fugitive settlements or African refugee settlements. Quilombos represented free African resistance which occurred in three forms: free settlements, attempts at seizing power, and armed insurrection. Members of quilombos often returned to plantations or towns to encourage their former fellow Africans to flee and join the quilombos. If necessary, they brought others by force and sabotaged plantations. Anyone who came to quilombos on their own were considered free, but those who were captured and brought by force were considered slaves and continued to be so in the new settlements. They could be considered free if they were to bring another captive to the settlement.

Quilombo dos Palmares was a self-sustaining republic of Maroons escaped from the Portuguese settlements in Brazil, "a region perhaps the size of Portugal in the hinterland of Bahia".[1] At its height, Palmares had a population of over 30,000. Forced to defend against repeated attacks by Portuguese colonists, many warriors of Palmares were expert in capoeira, a martial arts form that was brought to and enhanced in Brazil by kidnapped Angolans at about the 16th century on.

Early life[edit]

Zumbi was born free in Palmares in 1655, believed to be descended from the Imbangala warriors from Angola.[2] He was captured by the Portuguese and given to a missionary, Father António Melo, when he was approximately six years old. Baptized Francisco, Zumbi was taught the sacraments, learned Portuguese and Latin, and helped with daily mass. Despite attempts to pacify him, Zumbi escaped in 1670 and, at the age of 15, returned to his birthplace. Zumbi became known for his physical prowess and cunningness in battle and he was a respected military strategist by the time he was in his early twenties.

Capoeira or the Dance of War by Johann Moritz Rugendas, 1835

Leader of the Quilombo dos Palmares[edit]

By 1678, the governor of the captaincy of Pernambuco, Pedro Almeida, weary of the longstanding conflict with Palmares, approached its leader Ganga Zumba with an olive branch. Almeida offered freedom for all runaway slaves if Palmares would submit to Portuguese authority, a proposal which Ganga Zumba favored. But Zumbi was distrustful of the Portuguese. Further, he refused to accept freedom for the people of Palmares while other Africans remained enslaved. He rejected Almeida's overture and challenged Ganga Zumba's leadership. Vowing to continue the resistance to Portuguese oppression, Zumbi became the new leader of Palmares.

Fifteen years after Zumbi assumed leadership of Palmares, Portuguese military commanders Domingos Jorge Velho and Bernardo Vieira de Melo mounted an artillery assault on the quilombo. February 6, 1694, after 67 years of ceaseless conflict with the cafuzos, or Maroons, of Palmares, the Portuguese succeeded in destroying Cerca do Macaco, the republic's central settlement. Before the king Ganga Zumba was dead, Zumbi had taken it upon himself to fight for Palmares' independence. In doing so he became known as the commander-in-chief in 1675. Due to his heroic efforts it increased his prestige. Palmares' warriors were no match for the Portuguese artillery; the republic fell, and Zumbi was wounded in one leg.

Death[edit]

Though he survived and managed to elude the Portuguese and continue the rebellion for almost two years, he was betrayed by a mulato who belonged to the quilombo and had been captured by the Paulistas, and, in return for his life, led them to Zumbi's hideout. Zumbi was captured and beheaded on the spot November 20, 1695. The Portuguese transported Zumbi's head to Recife, where it was displayed in the central praça as proof that, contrary to popular legend among African slaves, Zumbi was not immortal. This was also done as a warning of what would happen to others if they tried to be as brave as him. Remnants of quilombo dwellers continued to reside in the region for another hundred years.

Importance today[edit]

November 20 is celebrated, chiefly in Brazil, as a day of Afro-Brazilian consciousness. The day has special meaning for those Brazilians of African descent who honor Zumbi as a hero, freedom fighter, and symbol of freedom. Zumbi has become a hero of the 20th-century Afro-Brazilian political movement, as well as a national hero in Brazil.

Tributes[edit]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Braudel (1984), p. 390.
  2. ^ Rodriguez (2006), p. 587.

References[edit]

  • Braudel, Fernand, The Perspective of the World, vol. III of Civilization and Capitalism 1984 (in French 1979).
  • Rodriguez, Junius P., ed. Encyclopedia of Slave Resistance and Rebellion. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 2006.
  • Diggs, Irene, "Zumbi and the Republic of Os Palmares", vol. 14 of Phylon (1940–65)
  • Chapman, Charles E., "Palmares: The Negro Numantia", vol. 3 of The Journal of Negro History (January 1918).
  • Kent, R. K., "Palmares: An African State in Brazil", vol. 6 of The Journal of African History (1965).

Bibliography[edit]

  • Cheney, Glenn Alan, Quilombo dos Palmares: Brazil's Lost Nation of Fugitive Slaves, Hanover, CT:New London Librarium, 2014. ISBN 978-0-9905899-0-7

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Ganga Zumba
King of Palmares
1680–1695
Succeeded by
None