Slave Identity In Brazil

896 Words 4 Pages
During the fifteenth century, the slave trade emerged as a prominent enterprise in Brazil causing thousands of Africans to endure racism, violence, and exploitation. The Portuguese stripped the African slave’s identities and cultures away, diminishing their humanity in the process. With this in mind, it was difficult for slaves to maintain their own unique identities as many came from diverse backgrounds in Africa, where they spoke various languages and belonged to separate cultures. To identify slaves, the Portuguese created subdivisions of slavery, which consequently created the feeling of inferiority among slaves. Identity became quite complex for them because they did not want to feel inferior to the Portuguese and each other, so to retain …show more content…
Emergent social systems within the slave community created a hierarchical structure that lent itself to division. An example of these social positions were African wet nurses, who were highly valued by the Portuguese. Many times the Portuguese who owned them gave the wet nurses increased social status because the care they provided to them was indispensable. As a result, these wet nurses were at the top of the slave hierarchy and they would often go about flaunting and “humiliating her female companions” ( Children of God’s Fire, p. 140). These wet nurses aimed to maintain their identities by putting down all slaves which caused tension between people of African …show more content…
The slaves could not freely embrace a position of inferiority without replicating the exact system that oppressed them within their own communities. The basic and straightforward master-slave relationship was interrupted by ripples of further oppression. The institution of slavery relies on the complete and total submission of those being enslaved to function properly. When the slave communities mirror the attitudes of the slavers, complete submission within those communities is not obtained, as certain members are still latching on to positions of authority and dominance. This is why the African slaves could not form a homogenous culture despite sweeping efforts to unify, the social system of stratification that emerged within their community structurally prevented them from unifying. Instead of producing a single homogenous culture, this African dispersal formed a multitude of different cultures, ultimately because there existed a multitude of different social positions within their society. Slavery as an institution, was incapable of producing the homogenized result it required to be sustainable and effective.
Hence, the intense degree of social division experienced by the Africans, the diverse backgrounds of the slaves, and the fusion of multiple cultural elements, directly lent themselves to producing

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