Even in the harshest times of slavery, people have found ways to maintain their dignity and their agency. In 1605, the city of Palmares was founded in the interior of Brazil by slaves to help other slaves.
They created a monarchical government with limited electoral representation, practiced traditional African customs, and valued dignity in life. The African influence can be even seen in their chosen name, Angola Janga, roughly translated as little Angola, which is where most of the Palmares citizens and their ancestors originated. Palmares had about 30,000 residents and maintained their Africanized republic nearly a century before Dutch and Portuguese colonial pressures caused their demise. Their state had become important enough that the Portuguese felt it necessary to sign trade treaties with Palmares, signifying their political legitimacy.
Ganga Zumba and Zumbi are the last two leaders of Palmares and were their most prominent warriors. Today in Brazil, both men are revered as heroes and honored as symbols of national black pride. On November 20, many Brazilians celebrate Dia da Consciência Negra or “Black Awareness Day,” a joyous affair for Afro-Brazilians. Zumbi’s legacy is honored by gracing banknotes and stamps throughout Brazil. So, on November 20, remember those who died fighting oppression throughout the world.
For Further Reading:
Mary Karasch, “Zumbi of Palmares: Challenging the Portuguese Colonial Order” in The Human Tradition, ed. Andrien
Robert Nelson Anderson, “The Quilombo of Palmares: A New Overview of a Maroon State in Seventeenth-Century Brazil,” Journal of Latin American Studies, Vol. 28, No. 3, Brazil: History and Society (Oct., 1996), pp. 545-566.