A photo album of liberated and enslaved Africans in 19th century Brazil / "Remain defiantly ... refusing to let us forget why we must remember"



They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Perhaps this is because embedded in each existent image is the complex tale of a person, place, or thing.



The photographs below tell the layered visual stories of enslaved and liberated Africans in Brazil during the 19th century. Their names and narratives have essentially disappeared from the history books -- at best, erased and removed from the country’s collective consciousness, and at worst, altogether ignored. But their photographs remain -- defiantly -- anchoring poems of resistance penned by abolitionists such as poet Castro Alves -- and refusing to let us forget why we must remember.

Photographs courtesy of Engenho Massangana, historical and cultural site in Pernambuco, Brazil, and childhood home of Brazilian abolitionist Joaquim Nabuco




Castro Alves From Brazil
by Pablo Neruda

Castro Alves from Brazil, for whom did you sing?
Did you sing for the flower? For the water
whose beauty whispered words to the stones?
Did you sing to the eyes, to the torn profile
of the woman you once loved? For the spring?

Yes, but those petals were not dewed,
those black waters had no words,
those eyes were those who saw death,
still burning the tortures behind love,
Spring was splashed with blood.

I sang for the slaves, aboard the ships
as a dark branch of wrath.
They travelled, and bled from the ships
leaving us the weight of a stolen blood.

I sang in those days against the inferno,
against the sharp languages of greed,
against the gold drenched in the torment,
against the hand that rose the whip,
against the maestros of darkness.

Each rose had one dead man in their roots.
The light, the night, the sky were covered in tears,
the eyes separated from wounded hands
and it was my voice the only one to fill the silence.

I wanted that from the man we could be rescued,
I believed that the route passed through the man,
and from there destiny would be made.
I sang for those who had no voice.
My voice hit doors that until then were closed
so that, fighting, Freedom could be let in.

Castro Alves from Brazil, now that your pure book
is reborn to a free land,
let me, poet of our America,
to crown your head with the laurels of the people.
Your voice joined the eternal and loud voice of the men.
You sang well. You sang how it must be sung. (source)

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