Legacy of the Lash: Race and Corporal Punishment in the Brazilian Navy and the Atlantic World

Views: 389
Ratings: (0)

Legacy of the Lash is a compelling social and cultural history of the Brazilian navy in the decades preceding and immediately following the 1888 abolition of slavery in Brazil. Focusing on non-elite, mostly black enlisted men and the oppressive labor regimes under which they struggled, the book is an examination of the four-day Revolta da Chibata (Revolt of the Lash) of November 1910, during which nearly half of Rio de Janeiro's enlisted men rebelled against the use of corporal punishment in the navy. These men seized four new, powerful warships, turned their guns on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's capital city, and held its population hostage until the government abolished the use of the lash as a means of military discipline. Although the revolt succeeded, the men involved paid dearly for their actions. This event provides a clear lens through which to examine racial identity, violence, masculinity, citizenship, modernity, and the construction of the Brazilian nation.

List price: $64.99

Your Price: $51.99

You Save: 20%

 

7 Slices

Format Buy Remix

1 Introduction: Race and Violence in Brazil and Its Navy

ePub

Because Uncle Tom would not take vengeance into his own hands, he was not a hero for me. Heroes, as far as I could then see, were white, and not merely because of the movies but because of the land in which I lived, of which movies were simply a reflection: I despised and feared those heroes because they did take vengeance into their own hands. They thought that vengeance was theirs to take.

JAMES BALDWIN, The Devil Finds Work, 1976

WHAT DID IT MEAN FOR BRAZIL WHEN A GROUP OF MEN, overwhelmingly poor Afro-Brazilians, violently rose up and demanded their right to citizenship? For generations, Brazilian sailors were pressed into service and forced to work under the direct threat of the lash. But then, at the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, they seized the navy’s battleships and held hostage Brazil’s capital city of Rio de Janeiro. These sailors, overwhelmingly Afro-Brazilians, demanded that their white officers stop “the slavery that is practiced in the Brazilian navy.”1 They staked a claim for citizenship and rights that should have resonated throughout the Atlantic; yet the story of the Revolta da Chibata (Revolt of the Lash) remains largely untold and has been until very recently, even for most Brazilians, forgotten.

 

2 Legislating the Lash

ePub

Yet it is said we must flog, to maintain discipline among sailors. Pshaw!! Flogging may be needful to awe a slave writhing under a sense of unmerited wrong, but never should a lash fall on a freeman’s back, especially if he holds the safety and honor of his country in his keeping.

SAMUEL LEECH,
Thirty Years from Home or A Voice from the Main Deck, 1843

THE BRAZILIAN STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDENCE FROM Portugal is often described as a “bloodless” transition. This is not entirely accurate as the Brazilian army and navy fought both Portuguese troops and Brazilian antiroyalists in Brazil from February 1822 until November 1823, and finally expelled the last Portuguese troops from Montevideo in March 1824 when the Cisplatine Province (now Uruguay) was briefly incorporated into the Brazilian empire. However, historians rightfully focus on Brazil’s comparative lack of violence in contrast to the Spanish American wars of independence that shattered Spain’s control over its empire.

 

3 Control of the Lower Decks, 1860–1910

ePub

What exactly do we mean when we use the term “povo”? Certainly not this base mass of illiterate, diseased, shriveled, malaria-ridden mestizos and blacks. This cannot be called a “people,” they cannot be presented to foreigners as an example of our people. The workers cannot be this example, they will never be the people. People means race, culture, civilization, affirmation, nationhood – not the dregs of a nation.

JOÃO UBALDO RIBEIRO, Viva o povo brasileiro

ACCORDING TO THE RECORDS OF THE NAVAL HIGH COURT (Conselho de Guerra da Marinha), in June 1872, cabin boy (grumete) Cosme Monoel do Nascimento, was found guilty of gravely wounding fellow cabin boy Francisco Palmeira d’Oliveira with a razor. He initially received a sentence of twenty years’ imprisonment, though that sentence would later be reduced to ten years. Through the court records, we gain access to a laundry list of biographical detail. We learn that Nascimento was a black (preto) twenty-seven-year-old who was born in Pernambuco; his father was José Francisco das Chagas. Nascimento enrolled in the Imperial Marines (Corpo dos Imperiais Marinheiros, the more prestigious branch of the navy akin to the U.S. marines) in 1862, but in May 1871, due to dishonorable behavior, he was moved to the regular navy and demoted to the rank of cabin boy.1

 

4 Roots of a Rebellion

ePub

Armstrongs wasn’t just a factory in a city suburb; at its peak it was Newcastle. For better or worse. The story of its famous guns and ships and tanks has often been told, has become a fascinating part of British industrial history.

DAVID BEAN, Armstrong’s Men

THE REVOLTA DA CHIBATA CAN BE BEST UNDERSTOOD IN THE context of the broader Atlantic World. In this era, the international sale of modern warships and the movement of the crews of naval and merchant marine vessels linked together waterfront cities throughout the Atlantic and beyond. Too often, the end of the Atlantic slave trade has been represented as a closing point for the comparative study of race in the Atlantic World, limiting conceptualization of the Black Atlantic to a colonial model. The Revolta da Chibata offers a modern example of the complex interactions that linked the twentieth-century Atlantic World.

Events that Brazilian sailors witnessed – and those in which they participated – during their stay in Newcastle while awaiting the delivery of warships from Armstrongs from the summer of 1909 through the first months of 1910 helped motivate the sailors who organized and carried out the revolt. Not to overemphasize those British roots; resistance to corporal punishment in the Brazilian navy clearly preceded the mass arrival of Brazilian sailors in Newcastle over the summer of 1909. But to overlook the impact of technological advances in Europe, the growth of the international arms market, the naval reforms initiated by British sailors, and the radicalism of British dockworkers at the turn of the twentieth century leaves the impression that the Revolta da Chibata occurred in isolation. To do so ignores the experiences of foreign sailors in Newcastle and the special nature of that city. Such neglect allows for the harshest critics of the reclamantes to redefine the movement and, I fear, extends the silence and mischaracterization that has for too long defined this revolt.

 

5 The Revolt of the Lash

ePub

The torturer took up a stiff, medium weight hemp cord, pierced with small steel needles. In order to make it swell, he soaked it in salt water, until just the tips of the needles protruded from the cord. The ship’s crew was ordered on deck to view the shackled prisoner. The comandante, after a moment of silence, read a proclamation of the sailor’s crime. The shackles were removed from his wrists and he was suspended – stripped from the waist up – from the iron structure that secured the ships ballast. Then . . . the master of the tragic ceremony began to apply the blows. The blood ran. The beaten man moaned, pleading, as the torturer continued, enthusiastically, with his inhumane task. The drummers played with fervor, drowning out the man’s screams. Many officers averted their faces; each [officer] was properly uniformed, gloved and armed with a sword. The enlisted men dispersed, repulsed and profoundly indignant.

EURICO FOGO, petty officer second class, served 1898–1910

 

6 Betrayal and Revenge

ePub

In fact, it was almost impossible with them on board, to maintain discipline. To the eyes of the people, the newspapers had presented João Cândido, a black man, as a national hero and had attributed to him the capacity of a great seaman, purposely treating him as an admiral.

FELIPE MOREIRA LIMA, tenente in the Brazilian army, 1910

The terrible feature of the revolt is the apathy of the officers under this crushing indictment of inefficiency, and incompetence. The modern powerful battleships, scouts, and torpedo boats are useless in the hands of Brazilian naval officers and men. Without preliminary training they are not experienced enough to handle them and the navy is disorganized, disoriented, and a navy in name only.

IRVING B. DUDLEY, Memo to the U.S. Secretary of State

BRAZILS CONGRESS AND PRESIDENT ENDED THE REVOLTA DA Chibata through the passage and ratification of the general amnesty of the insurgent sailors on November 26, 1910. Following its negotiated conclusion, the repercussions of this armed uprising resonated throughout Brazil. The divisions that formed between naval elites and members of the Brazilian government during the revolt – rooted in the struggle over the implementation of either a military or diplomatic solution in ending the uprising – reignited into long-term hostility over this issue. For decades, partisans blamed each other for the circumstances that culminated in the Revolta da Chibata.

 

7 Conclusion: The Measure of a Revolt

ePub

THE BLACK ADMIRAL

A long time ago in the waters of Guanabara Bay

The Dragon of the Sea reappeared

In the Figure of the brave sailor

Who history has not forgotten

He was known as the Black Admiral

He had the dignity of a master-of-ceremony

And when navigating the seas

With his assembly of frigates

He was hailed in port

By the French and Polish girls

And a battalion of mulattas

Crimson cascades gushed from the backs

Of blacks struck by the tip of the lash

Flooding the hearts of every crew

With the example of the sailors’ screams.

AT LEFT ARE THE ORIGINAL TITLE AND FIRST VERSES OF A SONG by João Bosco and Aldir Blanc, written about João Cândido and his revolt during the Brazilian military dictatorship in 1975.1 The military government censured the song for supporting antimilitarism; the title was changed from “The Black Admiral” to “O Mestre-Sala Dos Mares” (The master-of-ceremony of the sea), and the lyrics were rewritten. The whipped “sailor” became a “sorcerer,” and the “crimson cascades that gushed from the backs of negros [blacks]” would instead flow from the backs of santos (saints). “Hail the black admiral,” which ended the song, was changed to “Hail the black navigator.” The censured song went on to become a hit and has since been sung by some of Brazil’s biggest stars.

 

Details

Print Book
E-Books
Slices

Format name
ePub (DRM)
Encrypted
true
Sku
2370006218555
Isbn
9780253014290
File size
0 Bytes
Printing
Disabled
Copying
Disabled
Read aloud
No
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata