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.

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