The Malê Rebellion By Enslaved Yoruba & Hausa In 1835 Led To The End Of Slavery In Brazil

The Malê Rebellion in Brazil, also known as The Great Revolt, took place in January 1835 in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Enslaved African Muslims and free men rose up against the government on a Sunday during Ramadan. The insurrection was organized by Yoruba and Hausa Muslims, but non-Muslims from various backgrounds also took part. The insurrection was dubbed the Malê Rebellion because Muslims in Brazil was known as Malê in Yoruba.

On January 25, 1835, the insurrection was supposed to take place. Preparation sessions were held in a variety of venues throughout Salvador. Ahuna, Pacifico Licutan, Luis Sanim, Manoel Calafate, and Elesbao do Corma were among the Muslim leaders in the insurrection. One of the main objectives of the uprising, according to reports, was to establish an Islamic republic and kill or enslave non-Muslims, including whites and other Afro-Brazilians of mixed race.

There were also tensions between the African-born enslaved population and the Brazilian-born enslaved population. Enslaved individuals began to hear tales of the approaching revolution a day before it was supposed to begin. Sabina da Cruz, a former slave, had a fight with her husband, Vitorio Sule, and when he left, she went in search of him. He was at a house meeting with other revolt leaders when she found him. They informed her of the insurrection and stated that once the uprising began, they would take control of the region. She told her companion and another freewoman, Guilhermina, about the plot uprising after she had left the house. Guilhermina then told Andre Pinto da Silveria, her white neighbor. Antonio de Souza Guimaraes and Francisco Antonio Malheiros, two of Pinto da Silveria’s friends who were there when Guilhermina shared the information, then passed it on to local authorities.

Military soldiers attacked revolt leaders once local authorities learned of the rebellion. The revolution began when they fired back. The rebels attempted but failed to raid a prison-holding Muslim leader Pacifico Licutan in order to release him. After that, an estimated 600 enslaved Yoruba took to Salvador’s streets. They attack the city’s defenses, the military barracks. They were defeated, however, due to their inferior weapons and outnumbering by Brazilian National Guard forces, Salvador Police, and armed white civilians. 

During the day-long insurrection, it was estimated that 80 enslaved persons and seven National Guards troops were slain. A total of 300 rebels were apprehended. Four of the rebels were sentenced to death, sixteen to prison, eight to hard labor, and forty-five to whipping by Brazilian authorities. More than 500 Muslim Africans were removed from Brazil and repatriated to Africa, including the majority of the surviving rebels.

Despite its failure, the Malê Rebellion in Brazil was widely regarded as a watershed moment in Brazilian slavery. The slave trade that transported Africans to Brazil was gradually phased out starting in the 1850s. The “Free Womb Law” of 1871 declared that all children born to enslaved women would be free. Slavery was abolished in Brazil for the first time in 1888.

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