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Freedom in Amazonia: The Black Peasantry of Pará, Brazil, 1850-1950

De la Torre Cueva, Oscar (2011) Freedom in Amazonia: The Black Peasantry of Pará, Brazil, 1850-1950. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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More than 40,000 enslaved Africans were brought to Amazonia between the late seventeenth century and the 1840s. By the second half of the nineteenth century their cultural and economic adaptation to the region had become very visible: the slaves acquired knowledge of Amazonian agriculture, learned the opportunities for collecting forest and river products, and forged bonds of kin and culture. When slavery was abolished in 1888, the freedmen took advantage of the gradual impoverishment of plantation areas to appropriate plots of land that had belonged to their former masters, creating numerous peasant communities. This implied not only re-configuring residential, work, and leisure spaces, but also crafting new narratives of owning and belonging to the land. Outside of plantations, groups of escaped slaves proliferated along the Amazon's tributary rivers. Like their enslaved counterparts, by the second half of the nineteenth century the runaways gradually abandoned the hard life of marronage. They maintained relations with itinerant merchants, missionaries, and political patrons to gain stability and establish themselves as autonomous rural producers. In the early 1900s local elites sought to buy the lands where the maroon-descendants lived in order to subject them to coerced labor. Some black peasants accommodated to the new situation but others resisted it by employing varied individual, collective, and confrontational strategies, which included participating in multi-racial protests against land privatization. Local modes of production and trade in Amazonia impinged upon the history of Afro-descendants in complex and contradictory ways. While under slavery the regional economy facilitated the conversion of slaves into peasants and the viability of marronage, in the early- to mid-twentieth century local elites perfected new ways of curbing peasant autonomy. In turn, black peasants tried to maintain themselves as autonomous producers, asserting their right not only to reside on the land and to cultivate it, but also to gather its resources freely.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
De la Torre Cueva, Oscarodc1@pitt.eduODC1
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairAndrews, George Reidreid1@pitt.eduREID1
Committee MemberFuente, Alejandro de lafuente2@pitt.eduFUENTE2
Committee MemberFrechione, Johnjfrech@pitt.eduJFRECH
Committee MemberPutnam, Laralep12@pitt.eduLEP12
Date: 16 September 2011
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 8 August 2011
Approval Date: 16 September 2011
Submission Date: 9 August 2011
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Post-Emancipation; Afro-Brazilians; Amazonia
Other ID:, etd-08092011-135719
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:58
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:48


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