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‘A new 13th of May’: Afro-Brazilian Port Workers in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1905–18

  • KIT McPHEE

Abstract

This article examines the experiences of the Afro-Brazilian coffee transport workers of Rio de Janeiro's port district in the generation following the abolition of slavery in 1888. While they have been condemned by some scholars as reformist and placatory, this article argues that these Afro-Brazilians aggressively contested the new ‘free labour’ regime and the thousands of immigrant labourers who arrived to compete with them. Indeed, far from marking them as passive recipients of state paternalism, the subsequent decision of the port workers to seek an alliance with the state points to the importance of nativism as a middle-ground upon which successive Brazilian governments and Afro-Brazilians could meet.

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Many people assisted me with this manuscript. First, the staff of the Biblioteca Nacional, Arquivo Nacional and the Arquivo Geral da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro provided invaluable support and advice. This project would also not have been possible without the assistance of a local historian, Olivia Maria Rodrigues Galvão, who generously allowed me access to her microfilm copies of the minutes of meetings of the Sociedade de Resistência dos Trabalhadores em Trapiche e Café, and to those at the Sindicato dos Arrumadores in Gambôa who put me in contact with her. My thanks also to the Institute of Latin American Studies at La Trobe University, Melbourne, and in particular to Barry Carr and Ralph Newmark for their encouragement and research suggestions, as well as to Patrick Wolfe, Peter McPhee and David Goodman at the University of Melbourne.

Footnotes

‘A new 13th of May’: Afro-Brazilian Port Workers in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1905–18

  • KIT McPHEE

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