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Chronology for Afro-Brazilians in Brazil

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Chronology for Afro-Brazilians in Brazil, 2004, available at: [accessed 4 August 2021]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Date(s) Item
Aug 1991 Hundreds of people protested in front of Rio de Janeiro's airport against racial discrimination. This protest corresponded with a visit by Nelson Mandela.
Sep 1991 It was reported that even though the city of Salvador is over 80% black or mixed, the city's mayor and all but three city council members are white. The state of Bahia also has no black representatives in its Congress. The Ford Foundation funded black activists to visit black leaders in the United States in New York, Washington,D.C., and Atlanta to discuss similarities in their movements and to gain insights.
1992 For the first time, 3 of the 26 state governors elected are black. It was reported that even though black candidates run for office, many black people will not vote for a black candidate because they are taught to favor lighter skinned people, rather than admit their black, or African, heritage. It was reported that the majority of people living in shantytowns in urban areas are black people. These shantytowns, or "favelas," have no water or sewerage systems and are infested with diseases due to the high population of rats and rodents. Poor black children in these areas have been victims of death squads hired by Brazilian business people to curb crime. A federal report stated that 82% of the children killed by death squads were black. Poor black women (an estimated 6 million black women) have been the victims of sterilization without notification according to federal reports. International health activists and human rights activists have been pressuring the Brazilian government to halt all death squads and to improve the health facilities for the poor (mostly black) of the urban regions.
1993 An Afro-Brazilian won the governorship of Espirito Santo and Benedita da Silva, an Afro-Brazilian congresswoman, ran for mayor of Rio de Janeiro and lost by only a few percentage points.
Jul 23, 1993 A group of men shot and killed 8 teenagers sleeping in the streets. All of these teenagers were of African descent.
Aug 1993 While Brazil has the largest black nation outside of the African continent, it has 11 black members out of 503 in the Congress. Only four of these members identify with a black movement or take up black issues. A group of hooded gunmen killed 21 people living in a shantytown in Rio de Janeiro. Human Rights Watch reported that death squad killings were on the rise and that many of the people killed in them are black.
Aug 15 - 31, 1993 The men charged with the shootings of eight teenagers in Candelaria and the men who shot 21 people in Rio de Janeiro were arrested and indicted for homicide. The government also established an anonymous hotline to report death squad activity.
Jan 1994 It was reported that 2% of the faculty were black or of African descent at the State University of Bahia. 80% of the population in Bahia are black or mulatto.
1995 Newly elected President Henrique Cardoso admitted that he had "one foot in the kitchen," or that he was slightly mulatto. This phrase refers to the kitchen of slavery. Cardoso campaigned on racial equality and diversity.
Mar 1995 The U.S. Dept. of State Human Rights Report stated that darker skinned Brazilians encounter discrimination. Most black Brazilians are among the poorest sectors of society. There are very few black Brazilians in upper level management, military, or civil service positions. Moreover, officials from southern cities screen bus passengers and routinely restrict migration of darker skinned passengers from their cities. Many times, employment depends upon skin color as well. For instance, Jane Makebe was fired because the employer did not want black employees. But, when she filed suit and went to court, no one would testify on her behalf. Special police units, however, have been appointed in urban areas to investigate racial charges and crimes.
Mar 7, 1995 Afro-Brazilian were upset by the increase of white, blond models and actresses participating in the annual carnival in Rio. The carnival is the city's most traditional festival and has its roots in African culture. The actresses and models were accused of self-promotion, and Afro-Brazilians pointed out that the poor blacks of the region could not even afford tickets to the event that is a celebration of their cultural heritage.
Aug 27, 1995 The Sao Paulo city council was debating a law that would prohibit elevator segregation. The bill is sponsored by Aldaiza Sposati of the Worker's Party. Black workers are relegated to service elevators and often receive condescending looks and remarks if they use social elevators in buildings. Critics say the practice is relegating blacks to service elevators is just another example of the subtleness of discrimination that pervades Brazilian society. Race relations have not traditionally been controlled through laws, but rather by social practice, and the black roots movement is small in Brazil and appears poorly organized.
Nov 24, 1995 Brazil honored Zumbi, a 17th century Afro-Brazilian on the 300th anniversary of his death. Zumbi worked to free black slaves in Brazil for more than 20 years in the last 1600s. About 30,000 Afro-Brazilians marched in "The Zumbi March Against Racism." Organizers promoted the event as the largest civil rights protest in the nation's history. Following the march, in another historic first, black community leaders met with President Cardoso who promised to form a commission to study the black community's problems. He also said he would consider U.S.-style affirmative action programs for jobs and education.
May 14, 1996 President Cardoso announced a broad human rights plan which fixes policies to protect poor people from police violence and observes the rights of Indians, women, children, and blacks.
Sep 5, 1996 Tiririca, a popular singer in Brazil, has, according to some Afro-Brazilians, recorded a song insulting to blacks. A judge in Rio agreed and ordered his record pulled from the shelves. The singer and Sony Music have been hit with criminal and civil actions accusing them of racism. The singer said the song was an affectionate joke about his wife, who is black.
Nov 1996 The people of Sao Paulo elected the city's first black mayor. This event increased the visibility of blacks and mulattos, especially in the media, and Sociologist Nelson do Valle Silva suggests, "there is clearly a change in racial identity in Brazil. There is more consciousness of the racial problems. Most people agree with the concept that there is racial discontent in Brazil."
Feb 1997 The State Department's Country Reports for Human Rights Practices for 1996, noted several disturbing, and some positive trends in racial discrimination in Brazil. In late 1995, President Cardoso created an inter-ministerial group to fight racism and discrimination. State police added courses on human rights and discrimination to the civil police training curriculum. The ILO noted that important differences in wages continued to exist to the detriment of women and blacks, particularly in rural areas. Monthly per capita income for white males in 6.3 times the minimum wage whereas for black males it is only 2.9 times the minimum. The NGO Luiz Freire Cultural Center reported that 87% of the 1378 murders in Recife in 1994 were against black victims. A higher percentage of blacks are convicted by Brazilian courts than whites.
Apr 4, 1997 Brazil's Senate approved a bill classifying torture as a crime for the first time. This came three days after a nationally televised incident in which police beat up and extorted money from civilians. One civilian died in the incident. A poll showed a rise in fear and mistrust of the police in Sao Paulo after the incident. Mistrust of the police is especially high amongst blacks with 83% saying they lived in fear of the police. The new bill punishes torture with jail sentences of 2-8 years (16 years in fatal cases). Currently, police and military officers accused of mistreatment of citizens and prisoners are punishable for the lesser crime of battery.

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