Manuel Raimundo Querino

The first Afro Brazilian Historian


afro MANUEL QUERINO, (1851-1923) , maintained an active interest in labor and political affairs but, after the turn of the century, devoted increasing amounts of his time and energy to historical studies, in particular to research and writing on the contributions of the Africans to Brazil's growth. those studies had a twofold purpose. On the one hand, he wanted to show his fellow blacks the vital contribution they had made to Brazil; on the other, he hoped to remind the white Brazilians of the debt they owed Africa and the African Brazilians.

As Querino turned his attention to history, he hoped to rebalance the traditional emphasis on the european experience in Brazil. No black had ever given his perspective on Brazilian history before. Querino emerged as the first Brazilian - black or white - to detail, analyze and do justice to the African contributions to Brazil. he presented his conclusions amid a climate of opinion which was at best indefferent, at worst, prejudiced or even hostile.

Querino, then, brought to Brazilian historiography the perspective of the African Brazilian. Living in the Matat&euacute; Grande section of Salvador, immersed in and an intimate part of the black community, he knew perfectly well the habits, aspirations, and frustrations of black Brazilians. Speaking of his source material, Querino revealed that much of his information came directly from respected black elders who spoke to him without inhibition since they recognized in him a sympathetic friend. Evidence exists that, besides writting about the African-Brazilians, he helped to defend them. He tried to bring to the attention of municipal officials the persecution inflicted on the practitioners of the Afro-Bahian religions. The police, labeling the religions as "barbarian and pagan", frequently raided the terreiros where de ceremonies were held, desdroying property and injuring the participants. Querino's intervention on their behalf before the local governmente revealed once again his unique accomplishment in bridging different cultures and classes.

Historians certainly owe a heavy debt to Querino. He preserved considerable information on the art, artists, and artisans of Bahia. No one can do research on any of those subjects without consulting his works. further, he is an excelent source for social history. His As Artes na Bahia, for example, includes an ample sampling of biographies of workers, artisans, and mechanics, those who qualify as "the ordinary people." Such unique biographies provide an invaluable look into the lives of the humble upon whom much of the growth of Brazil rests. He also offers in his essays abundant information on popular customs, culture, and religion.

Certainly one of Querino's chief contributions to Brazilian historiography was his insistence that national history take into account its African background and the presence and influence of the blacks. Brazil, he emphasized, was the result of a fusion of the Portuguese, Indian, and African, but the contributions of the Africans had gone unheralded. He sought to redress the balance in his suggestive essay "O Colono Prêto como Fator da Civilização Brasileira" (1918). now translated into English under the title The African Contribution to Brazilian Civilization. It abounded with insights, many of which later scholarship adopted and expanded - so much so that it is now difficult to appreciate Querino's originality. Subsequent scholars have emphasized, for example, that Africa provided the skilled and unskilled labor for Brazil. However the essay suggested other significant contributions of African-Brazilians on which historians have yed to dwell. For example, Querino assigned the black a principal role in the defense of Brazil and the maintenance of national unity.

This text was extracted from the book "A History of Brazil", written by E.Bradford Burns.
Columbia University Press
New York Chichester, West sussex.

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