Race, Revolt and Republic: Brazilian Sailors in the Post-Abolitionist Context

By Silvia Capanema

This paper studies the relationships between the circulation of republican ideas, racial experiences, and the condition of subordinate sailors in the navy in the post-abolitionist context of the early Republic, by analysing the largest naval mutiny in the history of Brazil : the 1910 revolt against corporal punishment in Rio de Janeiro. Divided into two main parts, the text begins by discussing the racialisation process in Brazil in light of the two main transformations in the late nineteenth century : the abolition of slavery in 1888 and the proclamation of the Republic in 1889. The second part illustrates how the young rebels of 1910, mainly black or mixed race and from the north and north-east of the country – regions regarded as being on the outskirts and “backward” – built their movement by focusing on a shared identity as sailors and citizens of the republic. This identity proved to be incompatible with the practices and the slaveholding legacy still present in Brazilian society, particularly in the navy.

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