Remembering Palmares: From the Historic Quilombo to the Memory of Black people

Get to know some experiences of remembrance practices of the Quilombo dos Palmares, established between the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century by Black communities.

Angola Janga (2017) by Marcelo d'SaleteGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

The Palmares Quilombo was formed at the end of the 16th century, reaching its peak in mid-17th century. After a series of campaigns carried out by the bandeirantes from São Paulo hired to destroy the Kingdom, Palmares was brought down after the November 20th, 1695, with the death of its leader Zumbi. After this event, strategies to preserve its memory were developed in different regions of the country, in the face of initiatives that sought to led to its oblivion.

Flávio Gomes from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
00:00

The practice of running away as a possibility to exercise one's freedom, in reality, contributed to the creation of quite diverse societies. Under the names of quilombos, mocambos, palenques, cumbes, cimarrones or maroons, the formation of communities of people fleeing captivity was a phenomenon common to the slave system in all colonial territories in the Americas, as professor Flávio Gomes from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro points out, at Rádio Palmarina - a fictional radio station created to complement this exhibition.

The practice of running away as a possibility to exercise one's freedom, in reality, contributed to the creation of quite diverse societies. Under the names of quilombos, mocambos, palenques, cumbes, cimarrones or maroons, the formation of communities of people fleeing captivity was a phenomenon common to the slave system in all colonial territories in the Americas, as professor Flávio Gomes from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro points out, at Rádio Palmarina - a fictional radio station created to complement this exhibition.

Angola Janga (2017) by Marcelo d’SaleteGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

Whether moving away to the depths of the woods or settling close to roads for strategic for commercial relations, the aquilombamentos (runaway slaves settlements) were strongholds with complex political and social structures that reflected the material conditions of the regions where these communities were established. Within them it was also possible to maintain relations with the most diverse cultural elements from overseas, being fundamental to the memories of ancestral African traditions.

The first record of a mocambo in the Portuguese colonial territory dates from 1575, in Bahia. In the territory of the present states of Alagoas and Pernambuco, Quilombo de Palmares was formed at the end of the 16th century, reaching its peak in the second half of the following century and, later became the most emblematic quilombo in narratives about the colonial period.

Angola Janga (2017) by Marcelo d’SaleteGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

The Black kingdom of Palmares became an ideological project that opposed itself to the interests of the Portuguese crown, landlords and local governments. Protected by the dense forest formed by trunks of the Palms, Palmares resisted invasion and destruction attempts for more than a century. Although Palmares attracted poor indigenous people and white peasants, those that were considered the enemies of colonization were mainly “the blacks of Guinea”, as the Africans who were enslaved in the region were generally called.

Angola Janga (2017) by Marcelo d'SaleteGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

The attacks perpetrated by Dutch and Portuguese colonial governments, local slaveholders as well as neighboring captaincies, always met the resistance of Palmares’ leader Ganga Zumba. After his death, in early 1680, his nephew Zumbi took over his post governing the resistance through a series of new expeditions organized to extinguish the network of communities that formed Quilombo dos Palmares. Such kingdom was seen as a danger to the slave system for serving as an example for the formation of similar communities.

Angola Janga (2017) by Marcelo d'SaleteGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

In the most devastating of the expeditions against Palmares, which took place in early February 1694, there were many deaths. About 500 prisoners were taken to Recife. At the time, Zumbi managed to escape, but he was killed on November 20, 1695. His head was decapitated and sent to the capital of Pernambuco, where it was exposed until its decomposition in order to satisfy the bandeirantes’ sponsors who carried out the undertaking and also to refute the belief of Zumbi’s immortality.

The colonial power’s project aimed to impose the oblivion of Zumbi and Palmares. It turns out that this was not everyone's desire. The preservation of memories by Black people over the centuries has gained various forms of remembrance spread throughout the national territory. Until the first half of the twentieth century, it was possible to find records of manifestations of popular culture transmitted orally, in the organizations and activities of Black associativism, and in narratives about the political participation of African descendants in Brazil.

Group of Blacks, Quilombo de Bebedouro, 1952. Quilombo (1952) by Theo BrandãoGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

Palmares in the dispute for its memory

One of the ways in which the memory of Palmares was kept alive in the territories where it existed was in the staging of its narratives in cultural manifestations, that served as a Black art of memory, in the form of popular theatre. The manifestations that memorialized Palmares’ narratives emerged in Alagoas at the end of the 18th century. The Quilombo is one of the best documented. Held during Christmas holidays and in  celebrations of Black brotherhoods such as Nossa Senhora do Rosário, the Quilombo staged Palmares War as a battle between blacks and anti-quilombos troops, accompanied by indigenous people.

Jornal O Orbe, Hemeroteca da Biblioteca Nacional, 1882-12-06, From the collection of: Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
Show lessRead more

The municipal Code of Postures of the city of Alagoas prohibited in 1839 what it described as “a barbaric and immoral spectacle named quilombo”. This legal sanction did not prevent the continuity of the manifestation. It is possible to find informations in the local press between the 1870s and 1880s about its staging in different neighborhoods of Maceió.

Jornal O Telegrapho, Hemeroteca da Biblioteca Nacional., 1877-02-10, From the collection of: Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
Show lessRead more

In the newspapers O Orbe and O Telegrapho, the defense of the use of police force to restrain its permanence revived the practice of violence that led to the overthrow of the Black kingdom two centuries after the conflict.

O Clarim d’Alvorada (1926-05-13) by José Corrêa LeiteGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

The strong appeal of the quilombolas’ saga at Serra da Barriga made possible that Palmares’ memories were praised far away from Alagoas. In the 1920s, the history of Palmares' struggle had already crossed the country and made up the repertoire of São Paulo’s newspapers of Black press. On May 13, 1926, the young activist José Correia Leite published in O Clarim d'Alvorada the poem “Aos Palmares” (To Palmares), in which Palmares is presented as part of the symbols related to the abolition of slavery in Brazil. In the same year the Centro Civico Palmares was founded, followed, three years later, by the Clube Atlético Palmares.

O Clarim d’Alvorada (1927-10-15) by Hemeroteca da Biblioteca NacionalGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

O Clarim d’Alvorada (1929-06-09) by Hemeroteca da Biblioteca NacionalGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

Carlos de Assumpção by Photography by Ricardo Benichio/ Private collection of Carlos de AssumpçãoGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

Carlos de Assumpção – memories from the poem “Our Grandparents”
00:00

Through publications in the Black press, the poet Carlos de Assumpção, born in 1927, tells us how Palmares was understood by Black readers from the state of São Paulo as part of a tradition connected to racial pride and the struggle against racism. He draws attention to the importance of the Black Brazilian Front (FNB), created in 1931, and its newspaper: A voz da Raça. Then, he recites the poem “Nosso avós” (Our grandparents), dedicated to his friend Eunice de Paula Cunha, who, along with her husband, were part of the FNB.

Hino da Gente Negra Brasileira. Arlindo Veiga dos Santos. A Voz da Raça (1933-10-28) by Hemeroteca da Biblioteca NacionalGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

“Hino da Gente Negra Brasileira” – locução de Leonardo Angelo da Silva
00:00

Throughout the year of 1933, Arlindo Veiga dos Santos, one of the founders of FNB, published in A Voz da Raça the Hino da Gente Negra Brasileira (Anthem of the Brazilian Black People). Its lyrics were written by him and its music was signed by maestro Alfredo Pires, also a FNB member. The anthem was performed on May 13th of that year as part of a long festive program organized by the FNB, in which the symbols of Palmares were constantly present.

Arlindo Veiga dos Santos. A Voz da Raça (1937-05) by Hemeroteca da Biblioteca NacionalGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

The association between Palmares’ memory and commemorative dates strengthen in the following years. In April 1937, Arlindo Veiga dos Santos published in A Voz da Raça an article proposing that the Front should define a "Palmares Day" to dispute in the whole country the national feelings over independence. The article was published a year before the May 1938, in which the FNB was made illegal after a coup that started the Estado Novo.

Angola Janga (2017) by Marcelo d'SaleteGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

Given the fact that quilombos of great historical importance existed also in São Paulo, the presence of Palmares' symbols in the spaces of Black sociability reveals the strength of its memory. In Maceió, the continuity of the Quilombo cultural manifestation was ensured by the rural Black communities, as seen in the images produced in 1952 by the folklorist Theo Brandão in the quilombo of Bebedouro, where it is possible to follow the narrative of the cultural manifestation.

Blacks and Caboclos, Quilombo de Bebedouro. Quilombo (1952) by Theo Brandão and Rio de Janeiro: Funarte, 1978 / Museu Theo Brandão CollectionGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

“Folga negro, branco não vem cá”

Divided into three moments, the quilombo used to start with the construction of a large palisade symbolizing the quilombos. It was made of wooden stakes, decorated with several trees. Two thrones were built in the middle of an enclosure made of ouricuri palm and leaves. The throne on the left was made for the king and the one on the right for the queen. Once the vilage was made up, the Black group acted looting the farms or houses and filling the mocambos with stolen things such as animals, utensils, supplies and furniture. Subsequently, the sale of these products was made to their previous owners.

Black King, Quilombo de Bebedouro. Quilombo (1952) by Theo Brandão and Rio de Janeiro: Funarte, 1978 / Museu Theo Brandão CollectionGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

In the second part, the indigenous spies appeared seeking to know the positions of the Black enemy. While the Black population was preparing for its defense, the soldiers appeared representing the troops of Domingos Jorge Velho, a São Paulo bandeirante charged with the mission of destroy Palmares, accompanied by an indigenous group. Then there was a fight in the square or on the street in front of the quilombo and, after many battles, simulated retreats and assaults, the king of the caboclos ended up capturing the Black king, and takes the queen with them.

Indigenous King, Quilombo de Bebedouro. Quilombo (1952) by Theo Brandão and Rio de Janeiro: Funarte, 1978 / Museu Theo Brandão CollectionGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

The sequence of the cultural manifestation was the killing of the blacks and the destruction of the quilombo. The survivors were captured and reenslaved. The celebration ended with the sale of the blacks enslaved people and the handing over of the queen to one of the biggest landowners of the village. Even with a defeat in its end, this memory practice towards Palmares’ War reveals the runaway narrative as an experience of confront and rebellion feared by the slave owners.

Alvorada, Hemeroteca da Biblioteca Nacional, 1945-11, From the collection of: Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
Show lessRead more

The spaces of Black associativism in São Paulo were marked by recreative activities in which were constant the politicization of daily life and the exaltation of symbols of Black people’s struggles.

O Novo Horizonte (1948-03) by Hemeroteca da Biblioteca Nacional.Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

Carlos de Assumpção Carlos de Assumpção’s “A Dialogue between the Past and the Present”
00:00

The dancing balls in the Salão de Palmares and the civic activities of the Associação Palmares were two places it was experienced. It was in this context that Carlos de Assumpção wrote and published the poem “Diálogo do Passado e Presente” in the newspaper Novo Horizonte, in 1948 - years before his acclaimed work “Protesto”. The poem ended up being forgotten by the writer, but a reunion was promoted during the construction of this exhibition.

Lambe-Sujo (2011) by Avelar Santos Junior and Private collection of Avelar Santos JuniorGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

Other cultural events ensured the continuity of the Palmares’ narrative in the Brazilian Northeast.

Lambe-Sujo (2011) by Private collection of Avelar Santos JuniorGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

An example is the lambe-sujo in the city of Laranjeiras, Sergipe, originated in the mid-19th century.

Lambe-Sujo (2011) by Avelar Santos Junior. and Private collection of Avelar Santos JuniorGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

In the photographs of the geographer Avelar Santos Junior, professor at Federal University of Alagoas, it is possible to see the lambe-sujos wearing the Phrygian cap, symbol of freedom won by struggle, whose symbolism contrasts with that given by white redeemers.

Angola Janga (2017) by Marcelo d'SaleteGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

Carlos de Assumpção – memories from the poem “Berimbau”
00:00

In the whole country, different initiatives in rural and urban spaces contributed to keep Palmares as a symbolic axis for the Black people that would be reappropriated by the following generations. In this process, the association between historical consciousness and anti-racism was central. This relation it observed in the poem “Berimbau”, by Carlos Assumpção. It was written after the author watched an interpretation of the song “Zumbi”, composed by Jorge Benjor, and sung by Ellen Oléria. The verses are dedicated to the his friend Jorge Prado Teixeira, with whom Assumpção shared dreams in the Associação José do Patrocínio, between the 1940s and 1950s.

Inauguration of Ganga Zumba monument (1984) by Private collection of Edson MoreiraGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

The relationship between memory and history remained alive in the next decades in the symbols related to the advances of Black people. With the approach to the Abolition of Slavery’s Centenary, it was built the monument to Ganga Zumba in 1984 at Cruz das Almas beach, Maceió-AL. The sculpture points towards Angola, on the other side of the Atlantic, and is complemented with the monument to Zumbi dos Palmares, erected at Serra da Barriga, where Palmares existed. The project was idealized by the Black militant and history teacher Edson Moreira and it was made by the sculptor José Faustino.

Yalorixá Mãe Mirian no Dia das Flores. (2021-01-02) by José Aprigio VilanovaGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

At the monument to Ganga Zumba, the memory of Palmares is perpetuated in new forms. Every first Saturday of January is celebrated At its feet the Dia das Flores (Flowers Day), with a procession led by Yalorixá Mãe Mirian, who runs the Ilé Nife Omi Omo Posú Betá . In the square, cultural presentations take place while the monument is washed. Then, flowers are thrown into the sea as a request for protection, peace and harmony to the Black people.

Credits: Story

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.

Collective curatorship: Ana Flávia Magalhães Pinto, Bethânia Pereira, Bruno Pinheiro, Carlos Silva Júnior, Fernanda Oliveira da Silva, Francisco Phelipe Cunha Paz, Jonatas Roque Ribeiro, Leonardo Angelo da Silva, Lucimar Felisberto dos Santos e Marcus Vinicius Oliveira
Research and interviews: Ana Flávia Magalhães Pinto, Bethânia Pereira, Bruno Pinheiro, Danilo Luiz Marques, Francisco Phelipe Cunha Paz, e Lucimar Felisberto dos Santos
Text: Bruno Pinheiro, Danilo Luiz Marques e Lucimar Felisberto dos Santos
Audio editing: Leonardo Angelo da Silva
Music: Allan Abbadia
Production: Ana Flávia Magalhães Pinto, Bruno Pinheiro e Leonardo Angelo da Silva
Tecnichal review: Ana Flávia Magalhães Pinto
Translation: Bethânia Pereira e Francisco Phelipe Cunha Paz
Management: Natália de Sena Carneiro

Special thanks:
Allan Abbadia, Avelar Santos Junior, Carlos de Assumpção, Edson Moreira, Flávio dos Santos Gomes, José Aprigio Vilanova, Marcelo d’Salette, Museu Antonio Parreiras, Museu Theo Brandão, Rafael Galante.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps