On July 20, 1971, four black boys founded the Palmares Group in Porto Alegre. They were soon accompanied by the active presence of young black women and other members. The group would be recognized in the future as the driving force behind the November 20th proposal as National Black Consciousness Day. But this story neither begins with the collective’s foundation, nor ends with its dissolution in 1978
Poster of the first celebration of the November 20 th promoted by the Palmares Group (1971) by Private collection of Oliveira SilveiraGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
“They came through the paths”
It is part of the nature of groups to represent the encounter of shared aspirations. With the Palmares Group, it was no different. When we follow the steps that led to its foundation on July 20, 1971, it’s possible to understand how an experiment at first local became an undertaking that went beyond the national borders.
It was an achievement that went beyond Oliveira Silveira, Antônio Carlos Côrtes, Ilmo da Silva and Vilmar Nunes, the four black boys that struggled against racism and took the risks of political persecution in times of the dictatorship and stated publicly their demands for “Another story of the Black Brazilian”. At the same time, it would be unfair a narrative that does not recognize their names and those of many other Black people from the South of Brazil.
“Houses of Blacks / words in combat”
Born in the small town of Rosário do Sul, in 1941, Oliveira Silveira moved to Porto Alegre in 1959, in order to continue his studies. His knowledge of the impact of the Negritude Movement in France, as his enrollment in the French Literature course at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) favored the courtship and later marriage in 1967 with Julieta Maria Rodrigues, that was a Literature student at PUC-RS.
Resident in the Bom Fim neighborhood, territory that had been part of the African Colony, she was daughter of a Black family, very involved with the city’s Black social clubs, such as Floresta Aurora, Satellite Prontidão and Clube Náutico Marcílio Dias. Julieta's father, José Maria, was a professor of Educational Biology at UFGRS and it is said that he presented Ernesto Ennes’ book As Guerras nos Palmares to Oliveira Silveira, in which, among other things, register the November 20th 1695 as the day of Zumbi's death.
Ernesto Ennes. A Guerra nos Palmares . São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Recife e Porto Alegre: Companhia Editora Nacional, 1938, Cover and p. 104 (1938) by CopyGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
“Among messages from Palmar”
In the book published in 1938, Oliveira Silveira sighted far beyond the information that denied the version that Zumbi had “committed suicide by falling from the top of Serra da Barriga” and attested that, after his murder, the leader of Quilombo dos Palmares would been savagely beheaded and exposed in a public square. In the version of the enemy troops, this was important to "satisfy the offended and justly complainers, and to frighten the blacks who superstitiously judged him immortal". Even so, Ennes recognized that Zumbi “fought bravelly and desperately” in the company of his people, certain of the value of freedom. In Oliveira's eyes, it was possible to read there a force that connected generations and were still making a lot of sense among those who struggled against racism in the 20th century.
“May thirteenth: betrayal”
Between the late 1960s and early 1970s, the friends Antônio Carlos Côrtes, a law student; Ilmo Silva, economics student; Vilmar Nunes, civil servant and business student; and Oliveira Silveira, a teacher that graduated at UFRGS in 1965, had lively conversations, especially at the corner of Rua dos Andradas with Marechal Floriano, downtown Porto Alegre.
They shared the revolt at the way the history of Africans and their descendants in Brazil was reduced to the image of absolute submission to slavery. In schools, the celebrations of the May thirteen - that denyed the black struggles for freedom in favor of the exaltation of Princess Isabel, as “the redeemer of slaves” - were a source of embarrassment for children, youth and adults.
As a result of this indignation, Oliveira Silveira wrote the poem "Treze de Maio", on May 15, 1969, which is part of the book Banzo, for which he was awarded the honorable mention of the Brazilian Union of Writers in the same year.
Poem copy in Nêgo – Jornal Nacional do MNU , n. 14, abr. 1988, p. 12, (1988) by Negritos C ollectionGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
Union registration of Antônio Carlos Côrtes as a Banrisul employee (1971) by Private collection of Antônio Carlos CôrtesGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
“Let’s also sharp our voice”
The talks on the corner of Rua dos Andradas further sharpened the desire to learn more about the Black People History among those friends. That was how the future Dr. Côrtes found the book O Quilombo dos Palmares, by Afro-Bahian ethnologist Edison Carneiro, at the city's Public Library. The sharing of this reading, added to the knowledge of Oliveira Silveira as the most experienced, was strengthened in study meetings from May 1971. The first meeting took place at Rua Tomaz Flores n. 303, residence of teachers Maria Aracy and José Maria (died the previous year), where also lived Oliveira, Julieta and the little Naiara. The second meeting already had the participation of Anita Leocádia Prestes Abad and Nara Helena Medeiros Soares. It took place at the home of Antônio Côrtes’ parents, at Rua dos Andradas n. 849. Egydio Ribeiro Côrtes, caretaker of the state Lottery, and Isolina dos Santos Côrtes, housewife, also understood the importance of those dialogues and legitimized the interest of the youth.
Edison Carneiro. O Quilombo dos Palmares . 2.ed. São Paulo: Editora Brasiliense, 1958 , cover and p. 41 (1958) by CopyGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
“Ancestral interpreter in my dream”
The general information obtained in Edison Carneiro's work was not much different from that available in Ernesto Ennes' book. There were, however, at least two novelties: the way in which Zumbi's subjective profile was presented and the fact that these data were accessed in a collective reading. For those young men who were looking for a different History of Black people in Brazil, it was important to know, as highlighted by Carneiro when he defied the myth of suicide, that Zumbi dos Palmares had been a “chief conscious of his duties”, one of the last to leave the territory of Macaco before the onslaught of the columns of paulistas in 1694. The real quilombola leader was not the one “who threw himself off the rock, in a great theatrical gesture, but the one who remained alive, regrouping his men, organizing the quilombo resistance forces again – the longest attempted self-government of Black people in Brazil”. His death on November 20th, 1695, therefore, had more potential for mobilization than his own birth, whose date remained unknown. The Palmares Group was born supported by a symbol strong enough to confront the dehumanizing version of Abolition.
Cover of the books Poema sobre Palmares , de Oliveira Silveira (1987) by Private collection of Oliveira SilveiraGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
“Burn the whole history and you will see that [Palmares] is eternal”
The meetings arround the Quilombo dos Palmares history motivated the writing of many verses. Oliveira Silveira, apart from single texts, devoted many years to writing the Poem about Palmares. The undertaking began in 1972 and was until 1987, when he published the result in an independent edition, challenging the interdictions of the editorial market to Black literature.
In 2019, the collective Sopapo Poético, through Palmarinos Group, produced a dramatic reading to accompany the second edition of the book, printed by Editora Alternativa. The seven tracks of the recordings were kindly provided by Naiara Rodrigues Silveira Lacerda to be heard by the public of this exhibition while accompanying the tour through other documents that tell a little about the history of Palmares Group.
The voices are from Marieta Silveira, Jorge Fróes, Lilian Rocha, Kyzzy Barcelos, Vladimir Rodrigues, Fátima Farias and Sidnei Borges
Notes of Oliveira Silveira about the 13 de Maio and the 20 de Novembr (1971) by Private Collection of Oliveira SilveiraGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
“I want the good past”
Confronting the official narrative on May 13th through the exaltation of November 20th, as Black Consciouness Day, represented an effort to reposition the experiences of Black people in Brazilian history. In this note by Oliveira Silveira on Treze versus Vinte, made in the early 1970s, the need to look at the past not as the time of shame is explicit. Efforts should be “in the sense of consciousness, affirmation and pride”. Recover Palmares would help to realize the importance of historical subjects from other times. Not by chance, even before the first celebration of the Twentieth, in 1971, Palmares Group held meetings to honor Black abolitionists Luiz Gama, on the 89th anniversary of his death, on August 24th; and José do Patrocínio, in the 118th anniversary of his birth, in October.
“Retelling a very long history”
Saturday night, November 20th, 1971. Marcílio Dias Nautical Club. Neighborhood of Menino Deus. City of Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul.The first evocative act of Black Consciousness Day was attended by some twenty people and a strong certainty: “No Black person who knows the history of Palmares will have an inferiority complex”. Dimensioning the scope of the action was for later. What mattered there was to register the criticism of “almost a century of freedom in a country without freedom, in a colonial country”.The next day, Oliveira Silveira would defend the civic date of combative appeal in “A Epopeia dos Palmares”, an article published in Correio do Povo, in which he said: “Thus, on November 20th, to the best of my knowledge and belief, is that Blacks from Brazil – when not Brazilians in general – should have the best celebrations, revering the memory of our heroic ancestors. Not that of Zumbi exclusively, not the personalist homage only, but the recognized evocation of all the quilombolas from Palmares, from all the quilombos that followed – in Bahia, in Minas, in Maranhão –, of Luiz Gama, Patrocínio, the Rebouças and finally of all our great figures and moments”.
Poem about Palmares - Part 2Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
Script of the Commemorative Act in Homage to Palmares approved by the Federal Police (1971) by Private collection of Oliveira SilveiraGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
“Racism, I know it from the skin”
It would take a time before the Palmares Group and its “insistence on awakening a Black consciousness among Brazilians of African origin” were caught on the radar of concerns of the Porto Alegre Agency of the National Information Service (APA / SNI).
Their activities, from the beginning, depended on the authorization of the Federal Police's Censorship and Public Entertainment Group. But it seems that the agents saw no reason to take these Black men and women seriously.
Antônio Carlos Côrtes recalls a moment when he and Oliveira Silveira were asked to explain what they were doing. But monitoring records reveal that only the dialogue with the white writer Décio Freitas, who only approached after the group was founded, made sense in the minds of the surveillance agents...
Oliveira Silveira's note about the place of residence of members of the Palmares Group (1971) by Private Collection of Oliveira SilveiraGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
“This is the History of those of lonely-night”
Oliveira Silveira made a series of notes about the steps taken by the collective. Here is a rough map of the neighborhoods that the people involved in the coordination of the Palmares Group were from: Navegantes, Vila do IAPI, Glória, Menino Deus, Cidade Baixa, Centro.
Poem about Palmares – Part 3Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
Helena Vitória Machado, Anita Abad, Antônia Carolino, Marli Carolino and Oliveira da Silveira in a meeting of the Palmares Group at the bar of Faculty of Philosophy’s Student’s Center in the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS (1972) by Private Collection of Oliveira SilveiraGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
“We struggle with what we have”
The original formation of the Palmares Group was unquestionably male. However, as soon as the activities opened up to other interested people, the presence of Black women became effective. In 1972, an effort would be needed to ignore the participation of Helena Vitória Machado, Anita Abad, Antônia Carolino and Marli Carolino, who appear in this photograph taken during a meeting at the bar of the Student’s Center of the Faculty of Philosophy at UFRGS.In addition to these, the name of Nara Helena Medeiros Soares had already appeared in the script of the first act in honor of Palmares, in 1971. Other women participated in the following years, such as Marisa Souza da Silva, Vera Daisy Barcelos, Maria da Conceição Lopes Fontoura, Margarida Maria Martiniano Ramos, Irene Santos, etc. Not all of them remained throughout the group's existence.
Helena Vitória Machado, architect, was certainly the one who stood out the most, having been coordinator and proponent of the Palmares Group Manifesto launched in 1972.
CULTNE - Manifesto do Grupo Palmares em 1972 - RSGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
Photos of the family of Maria Conceição Lopes Fontoura at her graduation in Letters from UFRGS (1975) by Private Collection of Maria Conceição Lopes FontouraGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
“Hoarse fervent strong voices”
At the age of 23, when she joined the Palmares Group, Maria Conceição Lopes Fontoura was a young student of the Letters course at UFRGS. The invitation was made by Anita Abad. At first, in the presence of older and more resourceful people in the debates about the so-called “Black History”, she listened more than she spoke. It was difficult not to be intimidated by the power of figures like Helena Vitória Machado. However, her shyness soon went through a trial of fire.
In 1973, the celebration of the November 20th foresaw the presentation of the play Do Carnaval ao Quilombo, by the collective authorship of Palmares Group. The show contrasted with the lessons thought at school. Maria Conceição was then in charge of obtaining approval of the text before the Federal Police. Her parents never knew that. As that she never left the Black Movement from then on!
From the Carnival to the Quilombo - Excerpts
Poem about Palmares - Part 4Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
Activities proposed by the Palmares Group (1974-09/1975-01) by Private Collection of Oliveira SilveiraGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
“The word wanders, it sunbathes”
The commitment with “Black consciousness” meant that the Palmares Group's calendar of actions occupied other months than November. In fact, the movement took place throughout the year, with an effort to address different issues other than quilombos.
The planning of August 1974 was a series of activities that continued until January of the following year, which included meetings of study, performances, practical experiences, lectures, production of texts for newspapers, radio and TV.
In November, they published excerpts from another manifesto in Jornal do Brasil, in which they reinforced the importance of access to the “just and eloquent reasons for pride and dignity” present in the “history of the Black people”. The story was read by historian and activist Beatriz Nascimento, in Rio de Janeiro, who established contact with the Palmares Group shortly after.
In 1975, the Palmares Group joined the Afro-Sul Group, of music and dance, and occupied the Culture Club, an entity of the Jewish community, with lectures and artistic presentations.
Cover of the booklet “Mini História do Negro Brasileiro” (1976) by Private collection of Oliveira SilveiraGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
“Time, centuries on its line”
If, on the one hand, the fluctuation of participants of the group made it difficult to act among large segments of the Black population; on the other, the strategies adopted by the Palmares Group made the collective and its proposal more and more known.
In November 1976, the booklet Mini História do Negro Brasileiro was launched in the Black society “Nós os Democratas”. The group was then composed by: Antônia Carolino, Gilberto Ramos, Helena Machado, Margarida Martiniano, Marisa Silva, Oliveira Silveira, Otalício Santos, Rui Moraes and Vera Daisy Barcelos. Oliveira, in particular, had taken on the task of doing the research and write the material.
This Mini História would be used in later activities, as well as distributed among activists from other states that contacted Palmares Group. That year, for example, Orlando Fernandes and Carlos Alberto Medeiros went to Porto Alegre as representatives of the Black Cultures Research Institute (IPCN), an entity in Rio de Janeiro.
Poem about Palmares - Part 5Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
Oswaldo de Camargo (1970) by Picture of Renato Lopes, Private Collection of Oswaldo de CamargoGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
“Our friendship was free”
The Palmares Group arrived without interruption in 1977, dedicating itself systematically to the dissemination of a critical history of Blacks in Brazil and strengthening its articulation with other states.
At that year, the Associação Satellite-Prontidão, a Black society founded in 1902, received the exhibition from the Palmares Group mini-library, as well as the adaptation of the short story "Waiting for the ambassador", by the Black São Paulo writer Oswaldo de Camargo. The dramatic reading was done by members of the Nosso Teatro Group, later renamed Razão Negra Cultural Group.
Special guest, Oswaldo says that he had never been to Porto Alegre before, and he was very impressed with the welcome he received.
Letter of Oliveira Silveira to Beatriz Nascimento (1978) by Private collection of Oliveira SilveiraGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
Beatriz Nascimento was another Black intellectual activist who connected with the Palmares Group. As mentioned, she became aware of the Afro-Gaucho movement through the article published in Jornal do Brasil. At that time, Beatriz was working on the creation of the André Rebouças Working Group (GTAR), founded in 1975 at Fluminense Fluminense University(UFF).
This letter from Oliveira Silveira to Beatriz Nascimento, from January 2, 1978, written when the creation of the Unified Black Movement Against Racial Discrimination (MNUCDR) had not even been presented, informs about a dynamic Black militancy, in which the stories of Palmares and other quilombos were central.
The educational material to which Oliveira refers, certainly, were the notebooks elaborated from the editions of the Week of Studies on the Contribution of the Black People in the Brazilian Social Formation, at UFF
Poem about Palmares – Part 6Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
Covers of the magazine “Tição (1978/1980) by Private collection of Ana Flávia Magalhães PintoGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
“Your group is in the living wheel”
The Palmares Group, as such, ended on August 3, 1978. But its articulations were already been unfolded in other spaces, which represented a certain continuity.
In fact, the different understandings about the prioritarian strategies of struggle - and certain uncertainties - took members of the group to different paths, even if connected.
The MNU, founded in July 1978, was undeniably a place that brought many of these people together. But it is possible to recognize other directions.
One of them was the Tição Group, which existed between 1977 and 1980, being responsible for the edition of two magazines and a tabloid, references of the Black press of the second half of the 20th century.
Ceres Santos, who visited all these spaces, talks about the resonances of the Palmares Group in the debates of consolidation of the MNU in Rio Grande do Sul and in the rest of Brazil.
Vera Lopes e Sirmar Antunes in a poetic recita (1980) by Private collection of Oliveira SilveiraGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
“Give me your hand / and we shall go together”
The theatrical activities developed in the Black social clubs of Porto Alegre were certainly important for the mobilization of the people involved in the creation of the Palmares Group.
So much so that, throughout the 1970s, plays, concerts, soirees, etc. have always been part of their schedules.
Although a certain differentiation was insisted on, culture was political, and politics was made culture. The promotion of “Black consciousness” took place at this confluence.
Members' ties to the Razão Negra Cultural Group and several other black actresses and actors demonstrate the importance of art in the formation of Black consciousness in the South
“Let my people go”
When the foundational manifesto of the Unified Black Movement against Racial Discrimination was read on the steps of the Municipal Theater of São Paulo, the idea of the November 20th as National Day of Black Consciousness was already part of the repertoire of aspirations of militants throughout Brazil.Aside from this harmony, a proposal from the MNU was in line with many existing experiences of activism. Oliveira Silveira and Helena Vitória Machado were among the first to join the proposal in Porto Alegre in 1978. Shortly after, they created the GT Palmares, known as the "Grupão Gaúcho".In this photograph, Oliveira Silveira speaks to the plenary session of the IV MNU National Congress, held in Taboão da Serra (SP), from June 3 to 5, 1983.
Poem about Palmares – Part 7Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
Celebratory seals of the 20, 25 e 35 years of November 20 th by Private collection of Oliveira SilveiraGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
“I found my origins”
The Black Culture Association (ANdC) and the Semba Group, other organizations unfolded from the Palmares Group, started the production of commemorative seals to the November 20th as Black Consciousness Day.
“November all year, black conscience always” was the message shared in 1991, in its twenty years. Five years later, it was time to question: “Palmares Group, a historic turning point. And now?".
In 2006, in dialogue with representatives of the Black Movement and the UN, the Special Secretariat for Policies for the Promotion of Racial Equality (Seppir) launched a new seal in the magazine “Dia da Consciência Negra - 35 anos”. The art was elaborated by Raimundo Laranjeira, who incorporated a series of national and international references of militancy in the hair of a black woman.
In 2020, at the suggestion of the actress Vera Lopes, the journalist Sátira Machado mobilized the white artist Silvia do Canto to produce the stamp of the 50th anniversary of the 20th of November (1971-2021). They have worked together to create the Poster Book of the RS Negro project. In this tribute to the Palmares Group, the image of Oliveira Silveira associated with the map of Rio Grande do Sul mobilizes a series of meanings. The oldest among the group's founders, he would be 80 years old in 2021. Oliveira, in addition to being among the original proponents, was the only one to maintain ties with the group until the end of activities in 1978. Not by chance, he is called by many people “the poet of the black conscience”. The image is released for use in all activities developed throughout 2021 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vinte do Novembro and the struggles against racism in Brazil
CULTNE - Oliveira Silveira - Homenagem 50 anos do 20 de NovembroGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
This panel is part of the project of virtual exhibition Our Histories: lives, struggles and knowledges of Black People, made in a paternship between Rede de Historiadoras Negras e Historiadores Negros, Geledés – Instituto da Mulher Negra and Acervo Cultne.
*The titles of the sections and pages of this panel correspond to excerpts from poems by Oliveira Silveira.
*Os títulos das seções e páginas deste painel correspondem a trechos de poemas de Oliveira Silveira.
Collective curatorship: Aline Najara da Silva Gonçalves, Ana Flávia Magalhães Pinto, Bethania Pereira, Bruno Pinheiro, Carlos Silva Júnior, Fernanda Oliveira da Silva, Francisco Phelipe Cunha Paz, Jonatas Roque Ribeiro, Leonardo Angelo da Silva e Lucimar Felisberto dos Santos
Research and interviews: Ana Flávia Magalhães Pinto, Elenir Gularte Marques e Sátira Machado
Text: Ana Flávia Magalhães Pinto
Audio editing: Leonardo Angelo da Silva
Video editing: Asfilofio Filho e Bruno Pinheiro
Production: Ana Flávia Magalhães Pinto, Fernanda Oliveira da Silva, Leonardo Ângelo da Silva e Sátira Machado
Technical review: Ana Flávia Magalhães Pinto, Bruno Pinheiro, Leonardo Angelo da Silva e Sátira Machado
Management: Natalia Sena Carneiro
Antônio Carlos Côrtes, Arquivo da TVE – RS, Ceres Santos, Deivison Moacir Cezar de Campos, Elenir Gularte Marques, Greice Adriana Neves Macedo, Grupo Palmarinos (Marieta Silveira, Jorge Fróes, Lilian Rocha, Kyzzy Barcelos, Vladimir Rodrigues, Fátima Farias e Sidnei Borges), Helen da Silva Silveira, Maria da Conceição Lopes Fontoura, Martha Rosa Figueira Queiroz (Negritos), Naiara Rodrigues Silveira Lacerda, Oswaldo de Camargo, Sátira Machado, Sherol Santos, Silvia do Canto, Sirmar Antunes, Sopapo Poético e Vera Lopes.