November 20th, 2007 Headsman
On this date in 1695, Zumbi dos Palmares, the last leader of Brazil’s most famous free colony of fugitive slaves, was captured by the Portuguese and summarily beheaded.
From the very beginning of European settlement in the New Wold, Maroon communities of escaped slaves, free-born blacks, Indians, poor whites, and mixed-race outcasts formed at the fringes of slave states.
Colonial power did not welcome their presence.
Consequently, the community of Palmares faced repeated harassment from the Portuguese and the Dutch West Indies Company from the time of its establishment around 1600 — even as it burgeoned into a kingdom of over 30,000 inhabitants.
Zumbi, a black free-born in Palmares, was kidnapped by such a sortie and raised with a missionary priest who taught him Portuguese and Latin. At 15, he escaped and returned to Palmares, quickly rising to prominence and in 1678 overthrowing his adoptive uncle King Ganga Zumba when the latter attempted to accept peace under Portuguese rule.
Zumbi’s skepticism was vindicated when the followers of Zumba who had defected to Portugal were re-enslaved, but free Palmares soon faced intensified Portuguese pressure. In 1694, artillery finally battered its largest settlement into submission — forcing its ruler into the bush, where he long eluded capture.
In Zumbi’s honor, November 20 is a Brazilian celebration of national pride and especially pride for those of African descent … while the king who would not be a slave has lent his name, somewhat paradoxically, to an international airport.
Also on this date
- 1903: Peter Mortensen, divinely accused
- 2010: Mohsen bin Faisal Al Barik Al-Dossary, Saudi cop-killer
- 869 or 870: St. Edmund the Martyr
- 1903: Tom Horn
- 1676: Johan Johansson Griis, the Gävle Boy
- 284: Aper, by Diocletian
Entry Filed under: 17th Century,Beheaded,Brazil,Disfavored Minorities,Famous,Heads of State,Martyrs,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Politicians,Portugal,Power,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Royalty,Slaves,Soldiers,Summary Executions,Wartime Executions