Zumbi #OnThisDay

On 20th of November 1695 Zumbi, the last King of the Quilombo dos Palmares in early Brazil and ex-slave, was executed and decapitated. His head was displayed on a pike to dispel any legends of his immortality.

Zumbi, painting by Antônio Parreiras

Zumbi dos Palmares was born free in the Palmares region of Brazil in the year 1655, the last of the military leaders of the Quilombo (Kimbundu word: “kilombo,” of the North Mbundu Bantu language in Angola, meaning “warrior village or settlement”) of Palmares. The Quilombo dos Palmares were a free society (free born, maroons, or refugee slave), an old South American republic, which included the present day Brazilian coastal state of Alagoas, Brazil. Today, Zumbi is known as one of the great historic leaders of Brazil.

Africans in Brazil: Zumbi dos Palmares

At only 6 years old Zumbi was captured and enslaved to a Portuguese priest. He learned Latin and Portuguese but managed to escape when he was 15. He went on to lead the resistance of the people of “Quilombo dos Palmares [which] was a self-sustaining republic of maroons located in “a region perhaps the size of Portugal in the hinterland of Bahia” (Braudel 1984). 

Zumbi was betrayed and captured by the Portuguese. “His head is said to have been shipped to Recife, Brazil where it was displayed in the central praça as proof that Zumbi was not immortal and as a warning to other African resistance fighters.” Black History Heroes

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