Skip to main content



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

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Senzala." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . 10 Sep. 2019 <>.

"Senzala." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . (September 10, 2019).

"Senzala." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . Retrieved September 10, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.