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Querino, Manuel

Querino, Manuel

July 28, 1851
February 14, 1923

Manuel Raimundo Querino was a teacher, an artist, an abolitionist, a labor activist, and a historian. He was the first Afro-Brazilian to offer his perspective on Brazilian history and the first Brazilian to publish a detailed analysis of Afro-Brazilian contributions to Brazilian history, culture, and development. During a period of national redefinition, Querino boldly wrote, "In truth, it was the black who developed Brazil" (Querino, 1978).

During the second half of the nineteenth century, Brazil was characterized by its system of slavery and its status as a Portuguese empire. Unlike most blacks at the time, Querino was born free. Born in Santo Amaro, Bahia, Querino was sent to live in the state capital, Salvador, after a cholera epidemic claimed the lives of his parents. There he learned to read and write. At the age of seventeen, he joined the army and fought against Paraguay in the War of the Triple Alliance (18641870). He returned to Salvador in 1871 and became heavily involved in several political activities, including working as an advocate for the laboring classes. In 1875 he organized the Bahian Workers Society League and published articles in labor newspapers protesting low wages and political corruption. In 1878 he joined the Republican Club of Bahia and became an avid supporter of republicanism. He also fought for the abolition of slavery, calling for complete freedom for all slaves. He was a member of the Bahian Liberation Society, but he believed that total liberation for blacks in Brazil could only be achieved through education.

At the age of thirty, Querino attended the Academia de Belas Artes in Salvador, Bahia, where he studied architecture and design. He later became a teacher of design at the Liceu de Artes e Ofícios and the Colégio dos Orfãos de São Joaquim. He was eventually hired as a designer for the provincial directory of public works. The year 1888 marked the end of slavery as a legal institution in Brazil, and 1889 marked the creation of the Republic of the United States of Brazil. During this time, Querino was elected to the city council, and in 1896 he became an official of the Secretariat of Agriculture. He later became a founder of the Geographical and Historical Institute of Bahia.

During the early twentieth century, Brazil was redefining itself, and this included changing its reputation abroad. Most pressing was the question of race. The new Brazilian government began a campaign for "whitening" its population through the encouragement of European migration. Querino challenged this campaign by writing about the significant role Afro-Brazilians played in Brazil's history. Querino felt that the government resources that were being used to attract Europeans to Brazil could better be used to educate former slaves. Historians writing during this time emphasized Portuguese contributions to Brazilian development with little mention of the history of Afro-Brazilians. Querino dedicated himself to balancing this disproportionate emphasis. He challenged Brazilians, both black and white, to acknowledge the substantial involvement Afro-Brazilians had in the modernization of Brazil.

Querino's professional history, political activities, and ideological views resulted in a series of published works about Afro-Brazilians. In 1909 Querino published Artistas Bahianas and As artes da Bahia, both on Bahian culture and art. Several collections of Querino's essays were published after his death in 1923. A arte culinaria na Bahia was published in 1951, Costumes Africanos no Brasil in 1938, and A raça Africana in 1955. Querino also wrote on other subjects including Capoeira. Most noted by historians is O colono prêto como fator da civilização Brasileira, later translated into English as The African Contribution to Brazilian Civilization. In this essay, Querino argues that Africans came to Brazil not just as slaves but as skilled colonists whose abilities enabled the Portuguese to survive in unfamiliar and hostile territory. He writes of the relationship between blacks and whites during colonization as the beginning of a history of interdependence in which black labor sustained the economic and cultural growth of the new republic. To Querino, there would be no Brazil without its black citizens.

Querino wrote that, "History and all its justice has to respect and praise the valuable services which the black has given to this nation for more than three centuries" (Querino, 1978). While he wrote of the horrors of slavery and the continual resistance of slaves, he was the first historian to portray slaves as colonists and collaborators with Portuguese colonizers. As a result of this work, the lives, culture, and thoughts of Afro-Brazilians became a field of academic study and a celebrated element of Brazilian history. Yet, in spite of his many accomplishments, Querino died in poverty.

See also Emancipation in Latin America and the Caribbean; Historians/Historiography


Burns, E. Bradford. "Bibliographical Essay: Manuel Querino's Interpretation of the African Contribution to Brazil." Journal of Negro History 59, no. 1 (January 1974): 7886.

Querino, Manuel Raimundo. O Colono Prêto como Fator da Civilização Brasileira. Salvador, Brazil: Imprensa Oficial do Estado, 1918. Translated into English by E. Bradford Burns as The African Contribution to Brazilian Civilization. Tempe: Arizona State University, Center for Latin American Studies, 1978.

Querino, Manuel Raimundo. A raça Africana e os seus costumes. Salvador, Brazil: Livraria Progresso Editôra, 1955.

jillean mccommons (2005)

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