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Senzala, the slave quarters on Brazilian plantations during the colonial period and the Empire. Typically a long, one-story building, the senzala was divided into a series of separate units, each housing four or five individual slaves or an entire slave family. The senzala frequently formed one side of a rectangular compound of buildings that included workshops, a waterwheel or mill, storage sheds, and even the Casa Grande of the plantation owner. In this way, the planter or his foreman could readily observe slaves and their daily comings and goings; proximity made clandestine activity or flight more difficult. On large plantations on which a single senzala could not house all the slaves, additional slave quarters were built outside but near the central compound. Some descriptions indicate that many slaves were housed dormitorystyle, with single women and men separately housed in two large rooms. One practical nineteenth-century coffee planter urged building a veranda the length of the senzala so that slaves could visit one another in rainy weather without getting soaked and risking illness.

See alsoFazenda, Fazendeiro .


Francisco Peixoto De Lacerda Werneck, Memória sobre a fundação de uma fazenda na província do Rio de Janeiro, edited by Eduardo Silva (1847; 1985).

Stuart B. Schwartz, Sugar Plantations in the Formation of Brazilian Society: Bahia, 1550–1835 (1985), esp. pp. 135-136.

Stanley J. Stein, Vassouras: A Brazilian Coffee Country, 1850–1900 (1985).

Additional Bibliography

Araújo, Ricardo Benzaquen de. Guerra e paz: Casa-Grande & Senzala e a obra de Gilberto Freyre nos anos 30. Rio de Janeiro: Editora 34, 1994.

Slenes, Robert W. Na senzala, uma flor: Esperanças e recordações na formação da família escrava: Brasil Sudeste, século XIX. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Nova Fronteira, 1999.

                              Sandra Lauderdale Graham

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