November 20 is known as Dia da Consciência Negra (Day of Black Consciousness or Black Awareness Day) in Brazil. On this day, Brazilians recognize the efforts towards equality of the Movimento Negro (Black Movement) and celebrate black resistance and liberation by honoring Zumbi dos Palmares, a national hero.
Zumbi dos Palmares was a warrior and leader of anti-slavery resistance. Zumbi was born in 1655 in one of the quilombo settlements of Palmares in Pernambuco, Brazil. He was captured as a boy by soldiers and given to Father Antonio Melo who baptized him with the name ‘Francisco”. At the age of fifteen, Zumbi escaped and returned to the Palmares where he became one of the community’s most famous leaders and their last.
Also called Angola Janga (Angola Small) by those that lived there, Palmares was established as a shelter not only blacks, but also of poor whites, Indians and mestizos extorted by the colonizer. Palmares was like the Promised Land, and Zumbi, was regarded as eternal and immortal, and was recognized as a loyal and brave protector.
Zumbi was an extraordinary and talented military leader along with his wife, Dandara, who was also a fighter and defender of anti-slavery liberation in her own right, and leader of the female arm of the Palmares army, while helping to take care of sick children, the elderly, those injured by slavemasters. In 1694, a Portuguese army of 9,000 men began an undertaking that would lead to defeat Macaco, the main town of Palmares. Zumbi was found killed on November 20, 1695.
For years, Palmares was defended by Zumbi and Dandara against the military expeditions which intended to bring runaway slaves back into slavery. The Day of Black Consciousness is celebrated on November 20 in Brazil and is dedicated to reflection on the inclusion of blacks in Brazilian society. The date was chosen to coincide with the day of the death of Zumbi dos Palmares, in 1695.
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