King Zumbi of Palmares

3 Oct

Zumbi was the last king of an all black republic in Brazil named Palamres which last 30 years at it`s height having over 30,000 runaway slaves. Palmares was run along African lines, it was the first goverement of free africans and was recognised as true african state which it was about the size of present day Portugal

The people in Palmares lived in harmony and land was property of all, The fruits of collective labour was for all, they planted and harvested a whole range of items which they barted with their white indigenous neighbours,

Palmares was called a Quilombo, Quilombos represented slave resistance which occurred in three forms: slave settlements, attempts at seizing power, and armed insurrection. Members of quilombos often returned to plantations or towns to encourage their former fellow slaves to flee and join the quilombos. If necessary, they brought slaves by force and sabotaged plantations. Slaves who came to quilombos on their own were considered free, but those who were captured and brought by force were considered slaves and continued to be slaves in the settlement. They could be considered free if they were to bring another captive to the settlement.

They were effectivetly orgainsed both socially and politically and highly skilled in the art of was as they were forced to defend against repeated attacks by the Portuguese and also the Dutch.

Zumbi was born free in Palmares in 1655, believed to be descended from the Imbangala warriors of Angola.  He was captured by the Portuguese and given to a missionary, when he was approximately 6 years old. Baptized Francisco, Zumbi was taught the sacraments, learned Portuguese and Latin, and helped with daily mass. Despite attempts to pacify him, Zumbi escaped in 1670 and, at the age of 15, returned to his birthplace. Zumbi became known for his physical prowess and cunning in battle and was a respected military strategist by the time he was in his early twenties.

By 1678, the governor of the captaincy of Pernambuco, Pedro Almeida, weary of the longstanding conflict with Palmares, approached its leader Ganga Zumba with an olive branch. Almeida offered freedom for all runaway slaves if Palmares would submit to Portuguese authority, a proposal which Ganga Zumba favored. But Zumbi was distrustful of the Portuguese. Further, he refused to accept freedom for the people of Palmares while other Africans remained enslaved. He rejected Almeida’s overture and challenged Ganga Zumba’s leadership. Vowing to continue the resistance to Portuguese oppression, Zumbi became the new leader of Palmares.

Fifteen years after Zumbi assumed leadership of Palmares, Portuguese military commanders Domingos Jorge Velho and Bernardo Vieira de Melo mounted an artillery assault on the quilombo. February 6, 1694, after 67 years of ceaseless conflict with the cafuzos, or Maroons, of Palmares, the Portuguese succeeded in destroying  Cerca do Macaco, the republic’s central settlement. Before the king Ganga Zumba was dead, Zumbi had taken it upon himself to fight for Palmares’ independence. In doing so he became known as the commander-in-chief in 1675. Due to his heroic efforts it increased his prestige. Palmares’ warriors were no match for the Portuguese artillery; the republic fell, and Zumbi was wounded in one leg.

Though he survived and managed to elude the Portuguese and continue the rebellion for almost two years, he was betrayed by a mulato who belonged to the quilombo and had been captured by the Paulistas, and, in return for his life, led them to Zumbi’s hideout. Zumbi was captured and beheaded on the spot November 20, 1695. Remnants of quilombo dwellers continued to reside in the region for another hundred years.

November 20 is celebrated, chiefly in Brazil, as a day of black consciousness. The day has special meaning for those Brazilians of African descent who honor Zumbi as a hero, freedom fighter, and symbol of freedom. Zumbi has become a hero of the twentieth-century Afro-Brazilian political movement. And he is a national hero in Brazil as well.

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