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For other uses, see Zumbi (disambiguation).
Zumbi dos Palmares
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.
Born Nzumbi, Francisco
Alagoas, Portuguese Colony of Brazil
Died November 20, 1695 (aged 39–40)
Quilombo dos Palmares (Today Alagoas, Brazil)
Spouse Dandara
Religion Islam
Occupation King of Palmares

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


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 kingdom 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.


Zumbi's mother Sabina was a sister of Ganga Zumba who is said to have been the son of princess Aqualtune. Daughter of an unknown King of Kongo. It is unknown if Zumbi's mother was also daughter of the princess, But still makes him related to the Kongo nobility. He was raised a Muslim, after the Battle of Mbwila. The Portuguese won the battle eventually killing 5,000 men and captured the King, his two sons, his two nephews, four governors, various court officials, 95 title holders and 400 other nobles. which were put on ships and sold as slaves in the Americas. is very probable that Ganga and Sabina were among these nobles. The whereabouts of the rest of them is unknown. Some are believed to have been sent to Spanish America, but Ganga Zumba his Brother Zona and Sabina were made slaves at the plantation of Santa Rita in the Captaincy of Pernambuco in what is now northeast Brazil. A Portuguese province at that time a controlled by the Dutch Brazil. From there they escaped to Palmares.

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 subjugate him, Zumbi escaped in 1670 and, at the age of 15, returned to his birthplace. Zumbi became known for his physical prowess and cunning 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

King 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 king 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 kingship. Vowing to continue the resistance to Portuguese oppression, Zumbi became the new king of Palmares.

Fifteen years after Zumbi assumed kingship 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 kingdom'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 kingdom fell, and Zumbi was wounded in one leg.


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.


See also[edit]


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


  • 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).

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Ganga Zumba
King of Palmares
Succeeded by