In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Brazil and Africa

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • African Ethnicities in Brazil
  • African Religious Practices in Brazil
  • African Cultural and Political Practices in Brazil
  • Circulation of People between Africa and Brazil
  • African Returnees
  • Brazil, Africa, and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
  • Commercial Exchanges between Africa and Brazil
  • Journals
  • Digital Collections and Websites
  • African Biographies
  • Brazil-Africa Diplomacy

Atlantic History Brazil and Africa
Carlos da Silva, Jr.
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 May 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0384


This article is centered on the connections between Africa and Brazil during the era of the slave trade. Luso-Brazilian vessels transported as many as five million enslaved African men and women, which corresponds roughly to 40 percent of all captives shipped to the Americas. In Brazil, enslaved and freed Africans recreated ethnic, political, and cultural communities, but political and religious events in Africa continued to play an important role in shaping patterns of slave resistance. Throughout this period, a multiracial crew formed by traders of different ethnicities and legal status (enslaved, freed, and free) circulated across the Atlantic. Politically speaking, African and Luso-Brazilian authorities on both sides of the Atlantic engaged in diplomatic exchanges in order to guarantee the operation of the slave trade beginning in the middle of the eighteenth century. These diplomatic actions intensified in the first decades of the nineteenth century in the context of British measures to abolish the transatlantic slave trade. The bilateral approach expressed in some works listed in this bibliography challenges the Triangular model, very influential in English-speaking historiography, placing the connections between Brazil and Africa in the South Atlantic at the center. The article covers mostly the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, although a few (very important) works stress the formation of these links as early as the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The discovery of mining regions intensified the trade in enslaved Africans to Brazil in the eighteenth century as well as the commercial activities on the African coast, particularly in places such as the Bight of Benin and Angola. In this period the active participation of African freedmen can be observed in the business of slaving, and their role increased in the nineteenth century with the high demand for African labor due to the expansion of sugar and coffee plantations. But numerous freedmen and freedwomen returned to Africa to escape political and religious persecution, especially after the 1835 Muslim uprising in Bahia. Many others established Atlantic communities in West Africa. Brazilian historiography is well represented in the list due to the growth of the Brazilian production regarding Brazil-Africa links since 2000. The Bahian-based research group Escravidão e Invenção da Liberdade has been one of the most prominent in examining the connections between Brazil and West Africa in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

General Overviews

Rodrigues 1965 is a good starting point for the understanding of Africa-Brazil links. Alencastro 2018 provides a South Atlantic–centered perspective of Angola-Brazil relations in the formation of the Portuguese colony. Verger 1976 is still the most influential work on the connections between Bahia and the Bight of Benin from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. Castro 2001 stresses the influences of African languages on Brazilian Portuguese. The edited volumes Reis and Da Silva Jr. 2016 and Reginaldo and Ferreira 2021 add important contributions to the topic.

  • Alencastro, Luiz Felipe de. The Trade in the Living: The Formation of Brazil in the South Atlantic, Sixteenth to Seventeenth Centuries. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2018.

    A masterpiece work on the links between Brazil and Angola in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The focus is on the South Atlantic as a unifying zone linking Angola and Brazil and allowing the exchange of ideas, peoples, and commodities. Alencastro advocates that early colonial Brazil cannot be understood without looking at West Central Africa. First published in Portuguese in 2000.

  • Castro, Yeda Pessoa de. Falares Africanos no Brasil: Um vocabulário Afro-Brasileiro. Rio de Janeiro: Topbooks, 2001.

    Study about the African linguistic grammar in Brazilian Portuguese today. The author focuses on the Bantu-speaking languages of the West Central Africa, although she also shows influences from the Yoruba (from Nigeria) and Gbe (from Benin).

  • Reginaldo, Lucilene, and Roquinaldo Ferreira, eds. África, margens e oceanos: Perspectivas de história social. Campinas, Brazil: Editora da Unicamp, 2021.

    Collection of essays focusing on African connections in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Several articles address Brazil-Africa links.

  • Reis, João José, and Carlos da Silva Jr., eds. Atlântico de dor: Faces do tráfico de escravos. Belo Horizonte, Brazil: Fino Traço, 2016.

    Collection of essays about the transatlantic slave trade celebrating the journal Afro-Ásia’s 50th anniversary. Many articles deal with the Brazilian connection with the trade in Africa and the making of commercial associations on the West African coast.

  • Rodrigues, José Honório. Brazil and Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1965.

    DOI: 10.1525/9780520320536

    First published in Portuguese in 1961. The author was a pioneer in studying the relationship between Africa and Brazil in the long run. He argues that Brazilian society was profoundly Africanized due to the close contacts with the African continent and the flow of Africans from different ethnicities in Brazil. This is a classic that cannot be forgotten when one speaks of Africa-Brazil links.

  • Verger, Pierre. Trade Relations between the Bight of Benin and Bahia from the 17th to 19th Centuries. Ibadan, Nigeria: Ibadan University Press, 1976.

    The most important study about the connections between Bahia and the Bight of Benin. First published in French in 1968 (Brazilian edition in 1987), it pioneered the bilateral studies in the Atlantic history field. The author compiled a great number of material sources in order to create a broad picture of the development of the transatlantic slave trade and of Atlantic communities on both sides of the Atlantic basin. The transcriptions made by Verger allow researchers to access primary documents.

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