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Palmares slave revolts, 1602–1603

Gregory R. Smulewicz-Zucker


Palmares was a quilombo (in English, a “maroon society”) or settlement founded by runaway slaves in Pernambuco, a state in northeast Brazil. At the height of its power, it consisted of a vast network of villages, ruled by a king in Macaco, the quilombo's capital. Because the king was elected and his power was checked by a council of elders, Palmares is often labeled a republic, but one with distinctively traditional African features. Its name derives from what the Portuguese called the generally uncharted and largely uncolonized interior of Pernambuco, filled with palm trees and marked by inhospitable mountain ranges beyond the official Portuguese coastal settlements. The quilombo of Palmares existed for close to a century, during which time it resisted assaults led by both the Portuguese and Dutch regimes in Pernambuco's capital, Recife. Because of its longevity, Palmares has fascinated scholars of slave resistance and come to symbolize resistance to oppression for peoples of African descent. At the outset, the murkiness of facts about the origin of the quilombo and the nature of life there must be appreciated. The success of Palmares was an embarrassment for colonial authorities and most records were destroyed in an effort to suppress its memory. The records that do survive primarily give the Portuguese or Dutch side of the story. Until recently, the year of Palmares' ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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