Slavery, Freedom and the Making of Modern Brazil

On June 8–9, we will bring together some of the most important scholars of Brazilian slavery and abolition to collaborate on an English-language book that aims both to advance our understanding of slavery's enduring significance and to bring Brazil's remarkable Portuguese-language historiography to the attention of English-speaking scholars who study the broader Atlantic world. The event is free and open to the public. Registration information and full program are included below.


Slavery, Freedom and the Making of Modern Brazil

June 8–9, 2017 • 9:00 a.m.—5:30 p.m.

Rosenwald Hall, Room 405 (1101 East 58th St)

Brazil was the world’s largest and most enduring slave society, and the majority of the country’s population is of African descent. Slavery and abolition have always been central to Brazilian historiography, but in recent decades the field has burgeoned with path-breaking research and creative energy, deepening our understanding of old questions and extending our grasp of slavery’s constitutive role in forging Brazilian modernity. How did Brazilian slavery interact with other transnational networks of enslavement, liberation, and politics? How did slavery and emancipation shape the basic institutions of Brazilian social and institutional life—the family, the (un)rule of law, the nature of property? How were slavery’s violence and illegality recreated in the context of freedom? How did women’s experience of slavery differ from that of men, and how did both slavery and abolition mark subsequent gender relations? How did the processes of emancipation and abolition set the stage for future forms of social protest, resistance, and social mobility? How did the experience of enslavement shape the construction of race and the experience of racism? What role did art, theater, and music play in forging notions of race, racial mixture, and national identity? We will address these questions and their significance in the broader context of Atlantic slavery, abolition, and comparative race studies.

This event is free and open to the public. Please register in advance at


9:00 a.m. Welcome
Keila Grinberg and Brodwyn Fischer

9:15 a.m. The East River Is Like the Paraná: Racism and Transnational Perspectives in André Rebouças’ Autobiographical Writings
Hebe Mattos, Universidade Federal Fluminense
Commentator: Thomas C. Holt, University of Chicago

10:15 a.m. Slave Smuggling and “Hellish Nurseries” in 19th Century Pernambuco
Marcus Carvalho Universidade Federal de Pernambuco
Commentator: Caitlin Fitz, Northwestern University

11:15 a.m. Body, Gender and Identity at the Edge of Abolition: Benedicta / Ovídia Tells Her Story
Maria Helena Pereira Machado Universidade de São Paulo
Commentator: Julie Saville, University of Chicago

12:15 p.m. Lunch

1:15 p.m. Maternity Silenced: Wet Nurses in Brazil’s 19th Century Age of Slavery
Mariana Muaze Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro
Commentator: Sueann Caulfield, University of Michigan

2:15 p.m. Frontiers of Family Bonds in Post-Emancipation Society: Raising Illegitimate Children in the Traditional Brazilian Family, 1917–1970s
Sueann Caulfield, University of Michigan
Commentator: Tara Zahra, University of Chicago

3:15 p.m. Coffee Break

3:30 p.m. Large Landholdings and Plantation Communities in Nineteenth Century Vale do Paraíba
Ricardo Salles, Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro
Commentator: Emilio Kourí, University of Chicago

4:30 p.m. The Crime of Illegal Enslavement and the Precariousness of Liberty in Nineteenth Century Brazil
Keila Grinberg, Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro and Beatriz Mamigonian, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina
Commentator: Peter Beattie, Michigan State University

9:00 a.m. “Mulatos em cena”: An Abolitionist Newspaper, Black Political Rights, and Anti-Black Reaction in Recife, ca. 1876
Celso Castilho, Vanderbilt University and Rafaella Valença de Andrade Galvão, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco
Commentator: Kate Masur, Northwestern University

10:00 a.m. Slavery, Freedom and the Relational City in Abolition-Era Recife
Brodwyn Fischer, University of Chicago
Commentator: Maria Helena Pereira Machado, Universidade de São Paulo

11:00 a.m. Precarious Enslavement: Authority, Race and Law in a Frontier Slaveholding Society, Ceará, Brazil, 1850–1884
Martha Santos, University of Akron
Commentator: Sherwin K. Bryant, Northwestern University

12:00 p.m. Lunch

1:00 p.m. Racial Conflicts in the Musical World: The Post-abolition Trajectory of Eduardo das Neves (1874–1919)
Martha Abreu, Universidade Federal Fluminense
Commentator: Paulina Alberto, University of Michigan

2:00 p.m. The Past Was Black: Modesto Brocos, The Redemption of Ham, and Brazilian Slavery
Daryle Williams, University of Maryland
Commentator: Agnes Lugo-Ortiz, University of Chicago

3:00 p.m. Break

3:30 p.m. Teodoro Sampaio and the Business of Manumission and Black Freedom in the Age of Abolition
Wlamyra Albuquerque, Universidade Federal da Bahia
Commentator: Dain Borges, University of Chicago

4:30 p.m. Final Roundtable Discussion

The discussion will focus on a set of precirculated papers that can be made available to registered attendees before the workshop. Please contact Claudia Giribaldi ( to request digital copies.