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  Though these primary sources are incredibly interesting, they provoke many questions on the reliability of historical documents.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. 

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