The story

Routes of slavery


It is difficult to know how many Africans were brought to Brazil over three centuries of slave trade.

Many records that could make data more accurate have been lost or destroyed. Estimates indicate that between 3,300,000 and eight million people landed in Brazilian ports to be sold into slavery from the mid-16th century until 1850, when trafficking was effectively abolished by the Eusébio de Queiroz Law.

The four main slave ship routes connecting the African continent to Brazil were those of Guinea, Mina, Angola and Mozambique. They concentrated the trade of human beings who, in most cases, were imprisoned in wars made by African tribal chiefs, kings, or sobas for this purpose. Traffickers, mainly Portuguese, but also from other European and later Brazilian nations, obtained prisoners in exchange for firearms, fabrics, mirrors, glassware, iron, tobacco and brandy, among others. The ships, depending on the type, carried 300 to 600 captives at a time. Between 10% and 20% of them died on the trip.

Guinea Route

In the 16th century, Upper Guinea was the main nucleus for obtaining Africans to be enslaved by Portuguese traffickers. From Cape Verde were ships with captives coming mainly from the region where Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Mauritania, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ivory Coast are today. This area was inhabited by different peoples, including balantas, fulas, mandingas, manjacos, diolas, wolofes and sereres.

The destination of these prisoners in Brazil was the Northeast and North. But the Guinea Route had less impact on the formation of the Brazilian population than the other routes, as the need for labor in the Americas was still small in the first century of colonization.

Mine Route

The fortress of São Jorge da Mina was built by the Portuguese around 1482 on the coast of present-day Ghana to protect the gold trade in the region. Although taken by the Dutch in 1632, it would become, in the seventeenth century, a major trading post for the trafficking of enslaved Africans to Brazil and other countries.

The Africans embarked in the Mine (or Elmina) and other ports of the Gulf of Guinea were mainly from the axanti, fanti, yoruba, hauçá, ibô, fon, ewe-fon, bariba and adjá groups. In addition to Ghana, they were brought from the present territories of Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo, Nigeria, southern Niger, Chad, northern Congo and northern Gabon to meet the growing demand for labor brought about by the development of culture. of sugarcane in Brazil and the Caribbean. Brazilian ports, from Maranhão to Rio de Janeiro, especially Salvador, were supplied by this route until the first half of the nineteenth century.

Angola Route

This route provided about 40 percent of the 10 million Africans brought to the Americas. In the case of Brazil, ships departing from the coast of the present territories of Congo and Angola were mainly destined for the ports of Recife, Salvador and Rio de Janeiro. The peoples of Central Atlantic Africa, such as the ovimbundos, bacongos, ambundos and muxicongos, belonged to the so-called Bantu language group, which brings together about 450 languages.

The traffic from this region to Brazil began in the 16th century. It was initially marked by the alliance between the Portuguese and the Kingdom of Congo. But to escape the Congolese king's monopoly in supplying enslaved Africans, Portugal has now concentrated its efforts on the southernmost region, where Angola is today. From there came most of the Africans who entered Brazil, mainly through Rio de Janeiro, in the colonial period.

Mozambique Route

In the early nineteenth century, England began to pressure Portugal to end the slave trade, which resulted in the 1810 treaties between the two countries. To escape British control in most of the Atlantic, many traffickers turned to a previously unexplored route from East Africa. The ships departed mainly from the ports of Lourenço Marques (present-day Maputo), Inhambane and Quelimane in Mozambique and were heading for Rio de Janeiro.

Africans embarked in these ports belonged to a diversity of peoples, including the Macuas, Swazis, Macondes and Ngunis, and earned in Brazil the general designation of "Mozambics". Between 18% and 27% of the African population in nineteenth-century Rio was from Mozambique. However, not all came from the Portuguese colony, but from neighboring regions - where today there are Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Madagascar. The majority language group was Banto.