Nascimento, Abdias Do

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Nascimento, Abdias do

March 14, 1914

Abdias do Nascimento, who celebrated his ninetieth birthday on March 14, 2004, is considered one of the most important activists in the fight against racism in Brazil and in the Americas. Born in the city of Franca, in the interior of the state of São Paulo, he migrated to the city of São Paulo at the beginning of the 1930s and immediately began to participate in events organized by the Frente Negra Brasileira (Brazilian Black Front), an activist group founded in 1931. In the same decade, he became an activist in the Integralist Party (a nationalist party accused of fascism, but which attracted thousands of black people and maintained an ideological dispute with the Communist Party). In his role as an Integralist, he worked together with Sebastião Rodrigues Alves, another black activist. At the beginning of the 1940s, after a long journey to the interior of Brazil and to part of Latin America, Nascimento created the Teatro Experimental do Negro (Experimental Black Theater) in 1944. An artistic, political, and cultural movement, the theater brought together important intellectuals and black artists on the Afro-Brazilian scene, people like Agnaldo Camargo, Edison Carneiro, Ironides Rodrigues, Ruth de Souza, Léa Garcia, and the sociologist Alberto Guerreiro Ramos. The artistic and political articulation of Nascimento's performances constantly denounced racism while offering debates and solutions.

During this period, Nascimento organized, with various other leaders, the Convenção Nacional do Negro (National Negro Convention), which took place in São Paulo in 1945, and in Rio de Janeiro the following year. He also played an important role in the work of the Brazilian Constituent Assembly of 1946, offering critiques and proposing methods to eradicate racism. In 1950 he convened the Congresso do Negro Brasileiro (Black Brazilian Congress) in the city of Rio de Janeiro.

Persecuted by the military dictatorship that began in 1964, Nascimento decided to leave Brazil in 1968, a move that began his long history of international activity. Beyond participating in important congresses and meetings with black leaders in the Americas and Africa, he was active in various universities. He was the founding chair in African Culture in the New World at the Puerto Rican Studies and Research Center, State University of New York at Buffalo, where he worked as a lecturer at this university until 1981. He also lectured in the School of Dramatic Arts at Yale University and as a visiting professor at Temple University and at the University of Ifé, in Nigeria.

Since the 1940s, Nascimento has published various works (some of them translated), some of which he reedited for the collection O Brasil na mira do Pan-Africanismo (2002). In addition to being an author, poet, and playwright, Nascimento developed an international career as a plastic artist.

Nascimento participated in the Sixth Pan-African Congress held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1974. He participated in and helped organize the first Congress of Black Culture in the Americas, which took place in 1977 in Columbia, as well as the two succeeding congresses, the second in 1980 in Panama and the third in 1982 in Brazil.

After returning to Brazil in the 1980s, Nascimento resumed his political activism, serving as a federal deputy (19831986) and senator (1991, 19971999). In his parliamentary role, he emphasized legal projects for affirmative action and the fight against racial discrimination. Moreover, in 1992 he directed the office of the Secretary for the Defense and Promotion of Afro-Brazilian Populations, and in 1999 he directed the office of the Secretary of Human Rights and Citizenship, both in the government of the state of Rio de Janeiro.

Nascimento received the title of Doutor Honoris Causa from the State University of Rio de Janeiro (1990) and from the Federal University of Bahia (2000). In 2004 he was awarded the UNESCO Toussaint Louverture Prize for his work against racism.

See also Frente Negra Brasileira; Politics; Racial Democracy in Brazil


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Nascimento, Abdias do. O Genocídio do negro Brasileiro. Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 1978.

Nascimento, Abdias do. O negro revoltado. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Vozes, 1982.

Nascimento, Abdias do. O Brasil na mira do Pan-Africanismo. (Segunda edição das obras "O Genocídio do Negro Brasileiro e Sitiado em Lagos".) Salvador: EDUFBA/CEAO, 2002.

flÁvio gomes (2005)