Friday, 28 August 2015

Malê [of Yoruba descent] Revolt (1835) - the most significant slave rebellion in Brazil

Malê Revolt
The Malê Revolt (also known as The Great Revolt) is perhaps the most significant slave rebellion in Brazil.

On a Sunday during Ramadan in January 1835, in the city of Salvador da Bahia, a small group of black slaves and freedmen, inspired by Muslim teachers, rose up against the government. Muslims were called malê in Bahia at this time, from Yoruba imale that designated a Yoruba Muslim.


The uprising also took place on the feast day of Our Lady of Guidance, a celebration in the Bonfim’s church’s cycle of religious holidays. As a result, many worshippers would travel to Bonfim for the weekend to pray or celebrate. Authorities would also be present in order to keep the celebrations in line. Consequently, there would be fewer people and authorities in the city, making it easier for the rebels to occupy Salvador.


Slaves knew about the Haitian Revolution (1791−1804) and wore necklaces bearing the image of President Dessalines, who had declared Haitian independence.


The Revolt
While the revolt was scheduled to take place on Sunday, January 25, due to various incidents, it was forced to start before the planned time. On Saturday January 24, slaves began to hear rumors of an upcoming rebellion. While there are multiple accounts of freed slaves telling their previous masters about the revolts, only one was reported to the proper authorities. Sabina da Cruz, an ex-slave, had a fight with her husband, Vitório Sule the day before and went looking for him. She found him in a house with many of the other revolt organizers and after they told her tomorrow they would be masters of the land she reportedly said, “on the following day they’d be masters of the whiplash, but not of the land.”.After leaving this house, she went to her friend Guilhermina, a freedwoman, who Sabina knew had access to whites. Guilhermina then proceeded to tell her white neighbor, André Pinto da Silveira. Several of Pinto de Silveira’s friends were present, including Antônio de Souza Guimarães and Francisco Antônio Malheiros, who took it upon themselves to relay the information to the local authorities. All of these events occurred between the hours of 9:30 and 10:30 pm on Saturday January 24.

President Francisco de Souza Martins informed the Chief of Police of the situation, reinforced the palace guard, alerted the barracks, doubled the night patrol, and ordered boats to watch the bay, all by 11:00 pm. At around 1:00 am on Sunday, justices of the peace searched the home of Domingos Marinho de Sá. Domingos reported to the patrol that the only Africans in his house were his tenants. However, sensing Domingos’ fear, the justices asked to see for themselves. They went down into his basement and found the ringleaders, discussing last minute details. However, the Africans were able to turn the officers out into the streets.

Out on the streets, the fighting saw its first real bloodshed; several people were injured and two Africans were killed, including Vitório Sule, Sabina da Cruz's husband. After securing the area, the rebels split up to go in different directions throughout the city. Most of the groups did very little fighting because they were recruiters, calling slaves to war. However, the largest group traveled up the hill toward Palace Square (modern-day Praça Municipal), and continued to fight.

The rebels decided to first attack the city palace of the jail, attempting to free a Muslim leader, Pacífico Licutan. However, the prison guards proved too much for the rebels, who perhaps were looking to supplement their weak supply of arms with the jailers’. Unfortunately for the rebels, the reinforced palace guard began firing on them from across the square and they found themselves caught between lines of fire in front of the jail. Under heavy fire, the slaves withdrew from the prison and retreated to the Largo de Teatro. Reinforcements arrived on the slaves side, and together they attacked a nearby post of soldiers in order to take their weapons. They marched toward the officer's barracks, and put up a good fight, however, the soldiers were able to pull the gate guarding the barracks shut. The slaves had failed.

The rebels worked their way towards the Vitória neighborhood, where a number of Muslim slaves lived in the English community there. They regrouped at Mercês Convent where the sacristan, a Nagô slave named Agostinho, was a member of the conspiracy. The convent was a pre-determined spot for regrouping. A police patrol came across the rebels here, but retreated from their counter-attack to Fort São Pedro—a stronghold the rebels did not try to assault. By now the rebels numbered several hundred, but they had not been able to achieve any of their goals. They now headed towards Cabrioto, outside the city to rendezvous with slaves from plantations outside Salvador. In order to get to Cabrioto, however, they would have to pass the cavalry barracks. And when they met in Água de Meninos, the most decisive battle of the revolt took place. At about 3:00 AM, the rebels reached Água de Meninos. The footsoldiers immediately retreated inside the confines of the barracks while the men on horseback stayed outside. The rebels, who now only numbered about 50–60, did not attempt to attack the barracks. Instead, they sought a way around it.

However, they were met with fire from the barracks, followed by a cavalry charge, which proved too powerful for the rebel slaves. After the rebels were completely devastated, more slaves arrived. After assessing the situation, the slaves decided that their only hope would be to attack and take the barracks. However, this desperate attempt proved futile, and the rebels quickly decided to flee. The cavalry mounted one last charge that finished them off.

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