Brazil’s Maroon State

Zumbi by Antônio Parreiras / Wikimedia Commons

For nearly a century, Quilombo of Palmares was an Afro-Brazilian state, populated and run by people who had freed themselves from slavery.

By Matthew Wills

Brazil is the fifth most populous country in the world, so perhaps it’s not surprising that the country has a complex racial history. For instance, how many Americans know that there was an Afro-Brazilian state, made of those who had freed themselves from slavery, for almost a century?

The last leader of this community, known as Quilombo of Palmares, was Zumbi. Not a lot is known about Zumbi, including whether “Zumbi” was even his real name, and yet he remains a powerful figure in Brazilian historical consciousness. Scholar Robert Nelson Anderson writes in his overview of the history of this maroon enclave, “for many Brazilians, especially those of African descent, Zumbi embodies the strongest resistance to the slave-based colonial regime and, consequently, the struggle for economic and political justice today.”




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