Meet Zumbi dos Palmares, Brazil’s Greatest Warrior Who Lead a Massive Slave Revolt in the 1600s
Today Zumbi dos Palmares is considered to be the greatest warrior figure of Brazil for leading a massive slave revolt during the 1600s. In fact, Zumbi dos Palmares is the reason that Brazil has celebrated Black Conscious Day, also known as Black Awareness Day, since the 1960s.
Zumbi dos Palmares came into this world sometime during 1655 in a Quilombos known as Palmares. Quilombos were communities established by Africans who had escaped slavery in Brazil. Therefore, Zumbi was free at the time of his birth. But around the time Zumbi was six years old, Portuguese captured him and sent him to Father António Melo, who was a missionary. While living with Melo, Zumbi became baptized and received the name Francisco and received an education. He learned Latin, Portuguese, the sacraments, and helped with mass. Zumbi escaped back to Palmares at the age of 15, in 1670, and quickly became known for his military strength.
In 1678, the governor of Pernambuco met with the leader of Palmares and uncle of Zumbi, Ganga Zumba, and stated that if Palmares submitted to Portuguese authority, he would give all the runaway slaves of that community freedom. While Zumba liked the terms, Zumbi did not because he did not trust the Portuguese. Zumbi then went on to challenge the leadership of Zumba as he felt this decision proved Zumba was not fit to be the leader of the community.
Zumbi, with his great military strategy and strength, led a revolt against his uncle, Zumba. Around the same time, someone poisoned Zumba, causing his death. Many people believe that someone in Zumba’s family caused his death due to signing the agreement with Portugal. With Zumba dead, Zumbi took the role as king for Palmares and entered into a battle with the Portuguese.
From the time Zumbi took over as king, he became determined to gain freedom for everyone in his community. Therefore, tensions between Zumbi and the Portuguese rapidly intensified. In 1694, under the military leadership of Bernardo Vieira de Melo and Domingos Jorge Velho, the Portuguese attacked Palmares. The attack lasted 42 days, resulting in disaster for the Palmares community of Cerca do Macaco, which occurred on February 6th.
But the fighting did not end on February 6th. While Zumbi remained determined to free his community completely, the Portuguese remained determined not to let this happen. Then, on November 20, 1695, the Portuguese succeeded in ending the life of the leader of Palmares when they beheaded Zumbi, later placing his head on a pike.
Even though the community of Palmares did not come out successful in the end, they are still an important part of black history due to Zumbi and the slave resistance of the community. They continued to be influential in later slave revolts. In fact, the importance of Zumbi and his slave resistance continues to this day as every year on November 20, Brazil honors Zumbi as he is still considered a great hero, especially among the Afro-Brazilians. They continue to honor Zumbi for his determination, leadership strength, and courage to resist Portuguese colonial rule.
Sources: https://face2faceafrica.com/article/zumbi-dos-palmares-brazils-greatest-warrior-figure-who-led-a-massive-slave-resistance-in-the-1600s http://www.blackhistoryheroes.com/2010/05/zumbi-dos-palmares.html