Reflection on Anderson and Schwartz

From both Schwartz and Anderson’s essays, I realized how complicated slavery was in Brazil. Enslaved people were not captured passively; rather, they “molded their destiny as Brazilians.” It impressed me how “the slaves knew how to disrupt the operations of their master’s plantation, and they had carefully taken with them all the hardware of the engenho so that the mill remained inactive for two years.” But surely such things happened in the U.S as well. It is easy to forget the abilities of enslaves people. An account from the slaves is indeed very precious.

In Anderson’s essay, I am impressed by how Palmares is able to establish ground for so many years. The success of Palmares shows us the requirements for a “well-ordered” multi-racial society: small population, militarization, a charming leader, and a common enemy. Palmares feels like a myth to me because I can’t imagine a society like this in today’s world.

I also learned about how Brazilian culture was able to “syncretize” Christian and African belief and practice. The survival of a culture depends on its ability to continue despite changing circumstances. I underestimated the role of religion in shaping the institution of slavery. I think the question “To what extent did different religious beliefs impact the outlook on slavery, along with the activism against it” needs more exploration for me.

Brazil had many more slaves imported than America, but from what I comprehend, there isn’t a “mainstream account” of slavery’s history in Brazil. There are of course “antiracist” and “anticolonial” voices, but there isn’t as much accusation and victimization. How should we view enslaved people if they contributed to the institution of slavery? To me, slavery in Brazil is more confusing than slavery in America. There are many voices, which dilutes the story-telling. It is difficult to decide on which aspect of slavery in Brazil to pay the most attention to.

WDolan Reflection on Schwartz and Anderson’s Essays

I learned how the Brazilian Slave Trade brought more slaves than any other country. Reading about maroon states was interesting, as I got to learn about how segregated the Slave trade made Brazil. The document by Anderson explained the role of the Zambi, and it’s meaning, how marriage and religious practices worked, and so much more. The document by Stuart B. Schwartz explained the history behind the resistance that took place in Bahia, and provides excellent insight into the strategies used by the fugitives. 

 

I question why there is no access to the untranslated Portuguese documents that refer to the Brazilian Slave Trade as mentioned in Anderson’s document. Isn’t it essential to look back on history and be transparent about the events that took place and the documents that behold information? On page 548 of Robert Nelson Anderson’s paper, it says that most of what we know about Palmares “comes from accounts of the Dutch and Portuguese campaigns against the quilombo…” Wouldn’t this information automatically be biased? And due to the mistranslations, does that also affect the credibility?

 

In general, seeing how the community in Palmares became diverse was creating a form of unity within the segregated country of Brazil. Learning about the bravery of the resistance fighters in Bahia was fascinating as it showed a spark in motivation that  encouraged the slaves to fight for their rights. Seeing how the “existence of a group of fugitives on the perimeters of the plantations challenged the continued captivity of other slaves” was satisfying, as it allowed the slaves to disrupt regular protocols and see an effect coming from it. The effect was obviously the treaty of peace between the escaped slaves and the “colonial regime”.

 

Overall, the Brazilian Slave Trade was an awful historical event that took place. Learning of the slaves bravery and the certain level of success from the resistance was rewarding, as it showed the slaves hard work had not amounted to absolutely nothing. However, this was not enough, as all individuals deserve equal rights and no one belongs to any other individual. We should reflect on these events and not only learn from them, but learn about how they shaped our world to be what it is today.  

 

Reflection on Schwartz and Anderson’s Essays

Reading Schwartz’s “Resistance and Accommodation in Eighteenth-Century Brazil” has provoked several questions on the nature of human experience, as well as the nature of history. Schwartz’s essay exposes us to the significant and rare primary source in which certain slaves commented on Brazilian slavery. This is incredibly valuable, as we typically learn about slavery through the eyes of outsiders. The treaty of peace exemplifies how the slaves wanted better working and living conditions, in order to “play, relax, and sing . . . without hindrance” (p. 79). In response to this, Schwartz comments, “This reference to the larger dimension of man, to his spirit and not only to the body, represents that which was perhaps the greatest contribution of the slaves to Brazilian culture, that is the desire to maintain these human dimensions intact under the most difficult conditions of life” (p. 75). In reading this paper, we are obtaining a deeper understanding of Brazilian slavery. Despite their enslavement, we see the fundamental aspects of human experience shining through. This allows us to question human nature versus nurture, and how they contribute to these seemingly universal aspects of the human experience. We are able to detect major similarities between ourselves and the slaves who wrote this letter, despite the contrast between our privilege and their oppression. It is fascinating to read this source and find these ressemblances, as they lead us to wonder how much humans share despite their completely different lives. However, it is also important to question how well this primary source reflects Brazilian slavery. Was this unique behaviour to these particular slaves? Was this document modified by slave owners or historians? Who decided to create this treaty, and was its creation corrupted?  Though these primary sources are incredibly interesting, they provoke many questions on the reliability of historical documents.

In Anderson’s “The Quilombo of Palmares,” we are shown the culturally rich Palmares, which was a state of escaped slaves in Brazil. This paper helps to concretize our understanding of the differences between American and Brazilian slavery, due to the development of culture in Brazil. During our study of American slavery, we learned about the notable and heartbreaking assimilation that was forced upon African slaves. In Brazilian slavery, however, much of the culture was able to be preserved. Anderson’s essay explains that the people of Palmares were ethically, racially, and culturally diverse (pp. 547-548). Therefore, Brazilian culture as a whole was able to adopt a range of cultural diversity, leading to the fusion of certain elements (i.e. Afro-Brazilian music). Understanding the difference between the culture in Brazilian and American slavery is imperative, because it allows us to question the effects that it continues to have on their current societies. Anderson’s essay leads me to wonder how differently culture was maintained in escaped slave states, such as Palmares, versus within plantations. Beyond that, it provokes my curiosity on the fusion of African and Brazilian cultures, and how much this has affected the present day.

Overall, these two essays provide insight into Brazilian slavery, in comparison to American slavery. They are both incredibly valuable resources to use when examining the preservation of African culture in Brazil, which is one of the fundamental themes in this topic. 

Reflection on Schwartz and Anderson

Through my reading of Schwartz’s “Resistance ad Accommodation in Eighteenth-Century Brazil” and Anderson’s “The Quilombo of Palamares,” I learned about an Ilheus slave revolt in which escaped slaves attempted to bargain for better work and living conditions, and about the remarkable Palamarinos. Although these two works were very interesting–the first giving insight into the specifics of a plantation slave’s life and the second outlining the history and legacy of a fascinating maroon community–neither significantly augmented or altered my knowledge of slave rebellion in Brazil. These two specific events give me little insight into the generality of slave rebellion at the time, especially considering one, if not both of them, seems to be an anomaly. In short, I still have a lot of questions about slave rebellion in Brazil: how common was it? What was the success rate? How many maroon communities existed? How did rebellion fluctuate over the years? What caused the greatest spikes in it? What caused the greatest drops? I’m also especially interested in how slave rebellion in Brazil differed from that in the United States, and would love to explore literature on that subject. I have the general perception that slaves did not escape nearly as frequently in the United States, but I don’t really know and I could be completely wrong.

This has made me consider some of the issues faced by a historian, or even a casual reader of history. It is simply impossible to learn about every single event that occurred in relation to a subject of study. Besides that documentation doesn’t exist for everything, even if it did it would take too long to read it all to be feasibly learnable. But then, how can we possibly understand the whole without understanding the many pieces? It seems like the best option we have is to each study a single piece thoroughly, and then bring it all together as a society to create a patchwork ‘big picture’. However, then we run into the issue of individual historical works being remarkably incomplete or inaccurate in some way, for how can we possibly understand the piece without first understanding the context of the whole? In conclusion, history gives me a headache.

Sweet Reflection

While reading “ The Subject of the Slave Trade” by John Wood Sweet it gave me a sense of realization about our current economy and the slave trade. Sweet was very informative in his writing and gave a ton of different perspectives. As well as giving a lot of evidence supporting all of his conclusions and ideas. This helped me understand how slavery worked on a global context and all of the contributing factors playing into this important topic. I liked learning more about Britain’s involvement, and how they tried to spread their empire through beliefs. It is important to question how we have developed as a nation and as active participants in our economy. 

Throughout Britain there was a strong sense of nationalism regarding the belief that they (as a nation) were better than others because of their moral development. They liked to think that their “national character was defined by a unique devotion to liberty, that theirs was an empire of trade, not of dominion” (p.20). I thought this statement was rather interesting. They fully believe that because they banned slavery they were a more developed people. However they still greatly profited off of slavery and all of its economic benefits. By spreading this idea, it also helped spread British nationalism to other countries, giving Britain more power socially. In all of Britain’s efforts, in the end they wanted more power and still wanted to support the slave trade to help them economically. I think it is fascinating to see how a belief or idea can greatly contribute to human rights and justice, and how it will be harnessed to keep from giving more power to that country, such as our reference in class about China and America. 

In “The Subject of the Slave Trade” a particular line stuck with me regarding how even the abolitionist were still inadvertently supporting the slave trade through their consumption. They would still buy sugar, tobacco, and cotton clothes which in effect give power and money to the exact people that they were fighting against. But because it was “out of sight out of mind,” they didn’t know how much they were actually contributing to the slave trade. When we compare this to today’s societal norm of buying things such as clothing. We never really consider how this impacts others. Like the slave trade, when slavery was outlawed, the big slave traders would move somewhere they could still make a profit legally, and still bring all the products back to America to sell. In today’s society, big companies move their factories to less developed countries or ones that don’t have strong labour laws. This is where children, women and men are severely underpaid. They cannot afford a living and the children experience extreme hardships at a very young age. These two situations are very similar. We don’t see this impact when we buy those pants, and how much these huge billion dollar companies are profiting off of us and the underpaid workers. 

I greatly appreciated Sweets’ work. I think it really helped me develop my ideas about the slave trade from multiple different perspectives. I believe that this is how history should be taught. We should learn how to make connections from the past to the present. I think this can teach us a lot about our current society and how a lot of our problems stem from the slave trade.

WDolan_Sweet_Reflection

This essay was persuading as it gave multiple insights into the perspectives of the slaves and the European government. The sourcing was consistent and the author used a variety of sources to confirm the facts he was stating.

Sweet’s essay taught me that during the British Empire’s reign, black people were mainly the key to a thriving and powerful economy. The conditions of the economy were considered to be most important, and the examination of the ethics behind the slave trade were nowhere to be found. This struck me the most, as I would find it impossible as a slave owner or government official, to not think about how people’s rights were stripped away and how they were forced into excruciating labor.

The idea of ending slavery was appeared to only be a part of a bigger scheme to ‘colonize the regions’ (pg. 40). This was frustrating, as the government was so intent on finding way to make money, they were willing to make other races (particularly africans) suffer. 

One question from the essay which remains inside my mind is; Why? Why were the Europeans using other people rather than their own to help with the thriving economy? What made the Europeans so important that they were allowed to invade other countries and use people of different races to their benefit? 

Slaves lost the ability to discover and understand their culture. They were forced to ‘blend in’ to white America. The people who call themselves Christians were oblivious to the harm they inflicted and did not follow the Golden Rule (treat others the way you want to be treated). It appeared the Rule was believed to only be applied to caucasian individuals. 

Reputation appeared to be an important factor for the British as they wanted to keep their prominence within the economy and continue to stand apart from their competitors. There were increases in warfare and more hierarchical social structures. I was not surprised about the hierarchical social structures as black people where frowned upon from the time the slave trade began.

The author did a good job of explaining the fear of capitalism, an idea that naturally came with the abolition of slavery, and how it was a factor in the reluctance to do something about slavery.  However, was this a political excuse not to remove the Slave Trade? 

The author did a nice job with presenting his ideas in a well ordered manner. The paragraphs ended in a well rounded conclusion. There appears to be minimal bias and reasonable judgement included within the authors personal inserts that are scattered throughout the essay. 

The essay discusses ethics, ignorance, and how the slave trade shaped the Americas, and the economic power force Africans helped create. Explanations about how the Slave Trade precisly began were effective to gain a better understanding of why it is so significant in history and why it should be remembered. The essay showed us the moral qualities practiced and taught by the individuals of that time period. As tragic as the Slave Trade was, it should be studied, so we can avoid similar events in the future.