Hebe Mattos

The madness of Justina and Januário Mina. Rethinking boundaries between free and enslaved labor in nineteenth-century Brazil

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Based on a new reading of criminal and civil court records first analyzed by the author in "Das Cores do Silêncio" ("On the colors of silence", Rio de Janeiro 1995), the article promotes a dialogue between the social history of slavery and the period's political history, particularly in relation to citizenship rights and the legitimacy of slavery under Brazil's constitutional monarchy. Suppression of the illegal Atlantic slave trade starting around 1850 and its replacement by a flourishing domestic slave trade impacted the politics of daily life on large slave plantations, as well as the very experience of captivity and manumission. By reframing court record data on the race, occupation, and migration of free and enslaved workers residing in the Paraiba River Valley plantation area between 1830 and 1888, and by following some fragments of their life stories, we gain insight into the blurry boundaries between slaves and citizens as enslaved and free workers.


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