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Revista Brasileira de História

versão impressa ISSN 0102-0188versão On-line ISSN 1806-9347

Rev. Bras. Hist. vol.35 no.69 São Paulo jan./jun. 2015 

Dossier: Post-abolition In The Atlantic World

The legacy of slave songs in the United States and Brazil: musical dialogues in the post-emancipation period

Martha Abreu *  

*Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF). Niterói, RJ, Brasil.


The objective of this article is to bring to the field of post-abolition historical studies some reflections about the legacy of slave songs - or the "sounds of slavery" - in the United States and in Brazil. Rather than focus on the well-known differences between the two countries, the intention here is to call the attention of the reader to possible dialogues and contacts based around the disputes and meanings attached to this legacy. As well as the specialized bibliography on this issue, I concentrate on the assessments of two intellectuals at the end of the nineteenth century, who both had contact with the songs of the descendants of slaves in the Americas and who both reflected on the political meanings of those songs: Du Bois and Coelho Netto. Their assessments are part of a broader context of the internationalization of black music and the rise to prominence of black musicians in the post-abolition period.

Key words: slave songs; black music; post-emancipation; Brazil; United States of America


O objetivo maior do artigo é trazer para o campo dos estudos históricos do pós-abolição uma recente reflexão sobre o legado da canção escrava - ou do "som do cativeiro" - nos Estados Unidos e no Brasil. A estratégia, mais do que evidenciar as conhecidas diferenças entre os dois países, é destacar os possíveis diálogos e aproximações em torno das disputas e significados desse legado. Como recurso, além da historiografia especializada, utilizo as avaliações de dois exemplares intelectuais, do final do século XIX, que tiveram contato com as canções dos descendentes de escravos nas Américas e refletiram sobre os seus sentidos políticos: Du Bois e Coelho Netto. Suas avaliações inseriam-se num contexto mais amplo de internacionalização da música negra e de projeção dos músicos negros no pós-abolição.

Palavras-Chave: canções escravas; música negra; pós-abolição; Brasil; Estados Unidos

The world of music has always offered a wide field of possibilities for the study of African and slave experiences in the Americas.50In the words of Shane and Graham White, slave songs, which are understood as music, verse and dance, can be defined as "the sound of slavery" (White; White, 2005). In fact, slave songs were a structural component of the slave-owning American societies; they were an integral part of the policies of control and repression of the slave-owners and the authorities, as well as the strategies of resistance and negotiation of the slaves. The "sound of slavery" was constant in slave quarters, workplaces, cities and farms, in meeting places and parties, both in Brazil and the United States.51 However, these songs also had far-reaching implications, which went beyond the world of slaves and their celebrations.

The songs of slaves become spectacles at social and religious events organized by the slave-owners, and throughout the nineteenth century they came to be sung and represented, in a stereotyped and derogatory manner, by Blackface performers in the United States and Cuba, and in theatrical reviews in Brazil. Slave songs, in the form of cakewalks or lundus often appeared in the potentially lucrative market of musical scores, in music halls, in theaters and even in the nascent music industry - but not necessarily the black protagonists that those songs depicted. The world of entertainment and that of Atlantic music entrepreneurs produced attractive dance crazes based on genres and rhythms that were identified with the black population of the Americas.52

From the late nineteenth century, the political framework of abolition in the Americas did not greatly change the commercial paths already trodden by slave songs, but it did extend their reach and also discussions about their meanings and interpretations. I intend to show how the musical field started to express, perhaps as nowhere else, the impasses and the social and political conflicts experienced in the post-abolition period between the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

After abolition, intellectual discussions about the formation of modern nations, in cultural terms, put the musical contribution of Africans and their descendants as an important item on the agenda. Even in the United States, spirituals emerged as something of immense value after being "discovered" at the end of the Civil War (1861-1865) by progressive northern folklorists.53 Through music, and the musical skills of the black population, racial and even national differences were constructed and reinforced; the future possibilities for integrating ex-slaves into new societies and free nations were evaluated.54

In a direct relation to the rise of racist social theories at the end of the nineteenth century, slave songs took on more modern and obviously racialized versions, which were known and published academically and commercially as black music.55 Centered around this legacy and these memories, which were associated with the sounds of Africa, slavery and miscegenation, musicians, intellectuals linked to music, and folklorists assessed their future and inaugurated the study and writing of the history of black music in the Americas.

The main objective of this article is to bring to the field of post-abolition historical studies some aspects and moments of this long debate about the legacy of slave songs - or the "sound of slavery" - in the United States and Brazil. Rather than reinforce the obvious differences between the two countries, my intention is to highlight dialogues and approaches in the formulations of black music and the experiences of black musicians in the Americas between the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

The evaluations of the meanings attached to the songs of the descendants of slaves, which were written by two outstanding intellectuals of the early twentieth century, the North American W. E. B. Du Bois and the Brazilian Coelho Netto, serve as the motivation and resources for the development of the central questions of this article.56 The impressions and evaluations of these intellectuals, who both had direct experiences of the "sounds of slavery," demonstrate in an exemplary manner the importance of, and the new meanings attached to, the discussions and representations about the legacy of slave songs in the post-abolition era within the wider context of the internationalization of black music and the projection of black musicians in the nascent music recording industry.


Sometime between 1886 and 1887, W. E. B Du Bois (1868-1963), who was then aged nearly twenty and was attending Fisk University, must have seen for the first time a Negro Revival among the humble black population in the southern United States, more precisely Tennessee. Based on what he wrote some years later in a chapter entitled "Of the Faith of the Fathers" in The Souls of Black Folk (1903) it is clear that this experience had a great effect on his subsequent intellectual and political life.57 Du Bois became one of the greatest leaders of black American political thought and pan-Africanism.58 Black religious music, also expressed in so-called "sorrow songs" occupied an important space in his later reflections about the contributions in economic, demographic and cultural terms of black people in the United States.59

Du Bois's encounter with this Negro Revival was in the countryside, away from his home, "it was out in the country, far from home, far from my foster home, on a dark Sunday night." After passing through wheat fields and cornfields, he wrote that "we could hear dimly across the fields a rhythmic cadence of song, - soft, thrilling, powerful, that swelled and died sorrowfully in our ears" (Du Bois, 1999; p.240; 1997, p.148).

Du Bois had probably already been awarded his Ph.D. at Harvard, a title that he obtained in 1895, when he wrote the short chapter "Of the Faith of the Fathers", which was published in The Souls of Black Folk in 1903 (Du Bois, 1999, p.239-256). More than once in that chapter he mentions that he was very impressed by what he had witnessed, especially the atmosphere of intense excitement that had taken over those "black folk." Du Bois associated the Negro Revival with a "Sabbath" and he came to recognize that it was not easy to describe what he had seen.

The exaltation of a Negro Revival "in the untouched backwoods of the South" produced in Du Bois a strong desire to reveal "the religious feeling of the slave". In his opinion, when simply described, "such scenes seem grotesque and funny, but as seen they are awful" (Du Bois, 1997, p.149; 1999, p.241).

In his description of this special religious feeling of the slave, Du Bois did not mince words or adjectives:

A sort of suppressed terror hung in the air and seemed to seize us, - a pythian madness, a demoniac possession, that lent terrible reality to song and word. The black and massive form of the preacher swayed and quivered as the words crowded to his lips and flew at us in singular eloquence. The people moaned and fluttered, and then the gaunt-cheeked brown woman beside me suddenly leaped straight into the air and shrieked like a lost soul, while round about came wail and groan and outcry, and a scene of human passion such as I had never conceived before. (Du Bois, 1999, p.241)

Amid this madness, demonic possession, terrible reality, groans, shakes, and banshee screams, Du Bois recognized that "the music of Negro religion" was still "the most original and beautiful expression of human life and longing yet born on American soil. Sprung from the African forests, where its counterpart can still be heard, it was adapted, changed, and intensified by the tragic soul-life of the slave, until, under the stress of law and whip, it became the one true expression of a people's sorrow, despair, and hope" (Du Bois, 1999, p.241-242).

In another chapter, "The Sorrow Songs", Du Bois broadened the perspective of slave songs and included, along with "the Music of Negro religion," love songs and work songs in the category of "Sorrow Songs". He gave them a special role and in his words "the Negro folk-song - the rhythmic cry of the slave - stands to-day not simply as the sole American music, but as the most beautiful expression of human experience born this side the seas" (Du Bois, 1999, p.298).

This assessment of the "one true" and "beautiful and unique" role of the "songs of black people," was not exactly new in the United States (see Hamilton, 2007). But from the writings of Du Bois, who was recognized as the most influential black political leader in the first half of the twentieth century, and who most explicitly revealed to the world the impact of racial oppression among black communities,60 this view came to be widely accepted in studies of the musical expressions of African descent in the United States. As Paul Gilroy has argued, it was even transformed into a sort of paradigm for future, positive judgements regarding the role of slave descendants in the cultural and musical context of the North Atlantic.61

The legacy of slavery undoubtedly continued to define the content of the debates about the future of former slaves for a long period. In the musical field, that legacy, sometimes defined as slave music, sometimes as black or African-American music, occupied a prominent place in the history of Afro-descendants, and consequently in the evaluations that emphasized their positive contributions to the building of the American nation, in terms of culture and identity, after the end of slavery. It was a very similar situation in Brazil.

Far away from the United States, but at the same time, and with obvious similarities, the equally young and promising intellectual Coelho Netto (1864-1934) also felt the desire - or need - to explain what he had seen on the night of New Year's Day 1892, after a dinner at a farm in Vassouras (RJ), a town which was central to the slave economy of the coffee industry in south-eastern Brazil in the nineteenth century. In March of that year, recognizing the strong impression that the event had had on him, he published an article entitled "The Caxambu" (in other words "the dance of the freed slaves") in the newspaper O Paiz in the city of Rio de Janeiro, which he defined in these words:

This is the dance of Africa. They danced no other; sad in its brutality and its monotony, wild and barbaric as the land of their origin. It is the dance that blacks brought from exile as a nostalgic representation of their distant homeland - it was this dance that reminded them of their captive souls, a life lived in forests with the noise of trees, the leap of the tiger jump among clumps of thistles, the roar of the desert storm and cannibal wars... 62

For Coelho Netto, the caxambu was a heated performance of dancing and drumming; a longing for homeland and "the climate of their country." 63 Coelho Netto described the caxambu in a forceful manner; within the post-abolition environment he defined it in similar terms to those used by Du Bois when he described the religious and spiritual meetings he had attended as the "Sabbath of slavery."

According to Leonardo Pereira, this article about the caxambu was part of a set of chronicles, written and published by Coelho Netto during 1892 in the newspaper O Paiz, under the general title "Through Hills and Valleys." In 1892 Coelho Netto had spent a few months on a coffee farm in the Paraíba Valley, during the crises and persecutions of the Floriano Peixoto government, which typified the difficult period of the First Republic.

Pereira has analyzed this set of writings in depth and he considers that Coelho Netto used "Through Hills and Valleys" as a kind of prologue for the literary treatment that he subsequently used in novels that he wrote which were based around the theme of the backlands. Like other intellectuals of his generation, he used literature as a way to think about and discuss the effects of the abolition of slavery, especially concerning the difficulties of the integration of former slaves and African descendants in Brazilian society. In Pereira's view, because Coelho Netto did not believe in the potential contribution of former slaves in the formation of a promising republican nation, as an alternative he defended the backlands, the strength of the rural environment and the soul of its people, which were the result of the miscegenation of African descendants and indigenous people, as a positive way forward for the construction of national, modern and Republican originality (Pereira, 2012, p.95, 99-103).

This position adopted by Coelho Netto, which was praised by his contemporaries, can easily be identified in his article "The Caxambu", but in this case, in the field of musical discussion. The article uses expressions that are negative towards Africa and Africans, as well as descriptions of the way in which music was used to overcome the burden of slavery, through the music of former slaves and the sounds of slavery.64 In the final sentence Coelho Netto writes that it was becoming less and less common to hear the caxambu, "only faraway could you hear its roar, deep in some valley". It was no longer prioritized and "sorrow had its end." Coelho Netto writes that the "guttural screams" of the caxambu were being overlooked because Africans had embraced the God of Christianity and rejected the instruments of Africa, now preferring the trombone and flute; "and so the painful tradition of exile will be erased."

In the field of music and folklore, Coelho Netto also represented a kind of intellectual who, although he understood the value of slave songs, believed that the memories of the sounds of Africa, and their "guttural screams" and primitive instruments, would fade into oblivion with the establishment of the Brazilian Republican nation after the abolition of slavery. After all, for him, the descendants of Africans (and he saw this as something that was positive) had already adopted "our God" and "dignified" musical instruments, such as the trombone and flute, which were worthy of civilization. African customs would be forgotten once the "painful tradition of exile" had disappeared. With the passing of slavery, the cultural expression of exile (Coelho Netto mentions dance more explicitly than music) would disappear or be diluted and mixed into the large mixed race cultural melting pot of the nation, and more specifically, that of Brazilian popular music (Abreu; Dantas, 2011).

In January 1892, Coelho Netto wrote in O Paiz that dance, like oral poetry, was a "valuable ethnographic subsidy for the comparative study of different primitive races." Nothing was more characteristic of the trends, instinct and the soul of a people than their national dance; it was possible to derive the "moral and intellectual culture" of a people from their national dance. Coelho Netto wrote "There are characteristic dances that may go down in the history of the world, determining an era time and evolution, defining a period or symbolizing a fact." The caxambu was part of a "historical time" - that of the slaves - and therefore it no longer had a reason to exist.

Coelho Netto's notion that African traditions would be forgotten in Brazil became powerful and long-standing in the writings of folklorists and musicologists in the late nineteenth and early decades of the twentieth century that were concerned to construct a history of Brazilian popular music. As I have written elsewhere, along with policies to whiten the population and theories of the degeneration and the inferiority of mixed-race populations, which were very common in the writings of authors, doctors, lawyers and immigration-centered politicians, Brazilian folklore, poetry, and especially popular music, became vehicles for intellectuals who were positively interested in the discovery and dissemination of mixed-race musical and cultural phenomena. Even though they occasionally repeated a few maxims about the "black race," in the early years of the Republic intellectuals such as Coelho Netto, Silvio Romero, Mello Morais Filho, Afonso Arinos and Olavo Bilac celebrated the contributions of African descendants and the enslaved to what they were defining as the original features of popular Brazilian music (Abreu; Dantas, 2011).

Du Bois and Coelho Netto did not meet each other. They lived in very different worlds and it is highly unlikely that they even heard about each other. Their opinions about the music of the descendants of slaves or about the legacy of slave songs (expressed in The Souls of Black Folk or "The Caxambu") undoubtedly had different prognoses and political forecasts for the future. However, they reveal commonalities that need to be valued in the search for a deeper understanding of the musical disputes in the post-abolition era.65

Du Bois and Coelho Netto were both aware that in the period between the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, writing or expressing opinions about the music of slaves entailed evaluating - in their cases, positively - the cultural heritage of Africans and their descendants in the imagination of modern, national and post-slavery societies. They were also aware that evaluating black music, or the legacy of slave songs, involved participating in the debate about the hierarchy of races and the possibilities of the integration of people of African descent into society. Their words and assessments are striking and useful examples to highlight the power of music at this time of the (re)definition of social and national racial identities, - and vice versa: social and racial identities cloaked themselves in musical expressions (see Radano, 2003).

The writings of Du Bois and Coelho Netto are responses by representatives of their generation to the problems and issues related to cultural and musical order that faced those living in the post-abolition period. Each in its own way fought for the cultural and social integration of former slaves in the world that was being constructed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Du Bois was black and he faced poverty and discrimination - which was probably the main difference in the trajectories of the two. But Coelho Netto was also well aware of the problems facing the black population. He was active in the republican and abolitionist campaigns in Rio de Janeiro; he was a close friend of important black leaders like José do Patrocínio; he was familiar with life on the coffee farms; and he produced texts which, despite the fact that they contained racist maxims and defended miscegenation, discussed forms of integration for former slaves in the new republican nation. Coelho Netto was part of a literary group that believed in the power of literature and intellectuals to effect social change and politics in Brazil.66

Both men were scholars, writers, poets, essayists, teachers and activists - Du Bois was closer to the field of history, and Coelho Netto to that of literature. Although Du Bois was a novelist and journalist, he also had a strong academic background. Amidst the prejudices that existed in the intellectual world of the period (including among black thinkers in the United States), which were shaped by positive and negative opinions of aspects of civilization in Africa, both men were able to recognize the importance of music and dance for Africans and their descendants. At the same time, both men they gave them new meanings.

Regarding the slavery period, they realized how much slave songs - the "sound of slavery" - fuelled the survival and cultural struggle of those who were in "exile", an expression used by both authors. They associated meetings of black people with "Sabbaths" and valued the pain of exile - the memory of a distant homeland, to which there could be no return, but at the same something that black people did not wish to forget. For Coelho Netto, who was far less enthusiastic about the future of this music, the caxambu was "the tradition of exile." For Du Bois, black music was "the voice of exile" (Du Bois, 1997, p.188).

Concerning the post-abolition period, and this is most evident in the case of Du Bois, both authors recorded how meetings, songs, bodily tremors, music and dance, could be important channels of communication and organization for former slaves. Outstanding intellectuals and activists in their countries, the two writers, in a very similar manner, were concerned about the weight of the legacy of slavery and the possibility of African cultural and musical continuity in their own countries. Both also recognized that the music of black people, either as a heritage of Africa or as a legacy of slavery, had become a broad field of discussion and disputes over the future of former slaves and their culture.

Even considering the differences and distances between the two writers, uncertainties and arguments regarding the presence and continuity of Africa in the cultural field were part of the concerns of Du Bois and Coelho Netto - and for a long time these factors would influence academic controversies in the United States and Brazil.67 Both authors were well aware of the transformation that exile and slavery had foisted on Africans, and also how these experiences had established links of continuity between Africa and the Americas. Both men realized how disputes over memories (or the forgetting) of Africa in the fields of culture and music would be fundamental for the integration of former slaves in post-slavery societies and in the construction of the imagination of their nations.

Although the "historical time" of slavery had actually passed, Coelho Netto was quite wrong in his assessments and predictions. The caxambu - or jongo, as it became known - went from strength to strength during the twentieth century and in 2005 it was formally recognized as part of the cultural heritage of Brazil. Even today it is practiced by the descendants of slaves who worked on the coffee plantations in southeast Brazil. Even though it is sung in Portuguese and its lyrics pay homage to Catholic saints, jongo was elected as part of Brazil's cultural heritage precisely because of its historical continuity and its representative role in African-Brazilian resistance in the southeast region, as well as the fact that it forms part of the remaining legacy of the African people speaking the Bantu language who were enslaved in Brazil (see Abreu; Mattos, 2007).

In addition to jongos and caxambus there are many examples today, in several regions of Brazil, of musical expressions that identify themselves as black and which are based upon the heritage of slavery and/or Africa, such as congados, maracatu and samba de roda, and the fight against racism and in favor of the cultural heritage that was constructed in captivity and identified as black (see Abreu; Mattos, 2011).

Even though he was far more sensitive to the role of music in the affirmation of black identity and culture in the United States, perhaps even Du Bois would have been unable to imagine or predict how powerful black music would become in the United States, from jazz to funk to gospel and blues. As a banner of struggle against racism, or as a commercial product of the music industry, the role of black music is undeniable in the intense contemporary cultural interchanges of the Black Atlantic, as defined by Paul (Gilroy 2001, Chap. 1).

A few words remain to be said about Du Bois and his relationship with African heritage in black religious music. Du Bois, in a very similar manner to Coelho Netto, was sure that "after the lapse of many generations the Negro church became Christian" Du Bois, 1999 p.246, 1997, p.152), and in that sense American as well, under the pressure of slavery.68

As much as the African dimension of the "black church" was recalled by Du Bois (Patterson, 2010, p.150; Du Bois, 1999, p.243), and in this respect he differed from Coelho Netto, he also defended the "dramatic insertion of Africans and their descendants in the historical trajectory of the United States." 69 The United States was the common homeland of blacks and whites, inextricably linked by history, although separated by everyday racism. Metaphorically defined as a veil, racism seemed to cover up one of those worlds, which Du Bois would reveal.70

In fact, Du Bois would not give up on the recognition of the existence of a "double life that every American Negro must live, as a Negro and as an American" (Du Bois, 1999, p.251; 1997, p.155). The religious frenzy of "shouting", understood as the moment when "when the Spirit of the Lord passed by, and, seizing the devotee, made him mad with supernatural joy," was to Du Bois, the "last essential of Negro religion..." (Du Bois, 1997, p.149; 1999, p.242).

Especially in the chapter entitled "Of the Sorrow Songs", Du Bois showed that the "songs of black people" persisted: they were "the articulated message of the slave to the world" (Du Bois, 1997, p.189; 1999, p.301). Even if such music was despised, "it still remains as the singular spiritual heritage of the nation and the greatest gift of the Negro people" (Du Bois, 1997p.186; 1999, p.298). In his words, as highlighted previously, it was the "only American music ... the most beautiful expression of human Du Bois, 1999born this side of the seas" (Du Bois, 1999, p.298).

Du Bois identified "black religious music," a mode of Sorrow Songs, as a central symbol of values, moral rectitude, integrity and autonomy, which used vocabulary that was deeply influenced by Christian religious themes, but not exclusively. Du Bois concluded that these Sorrow Songs, and also songs about work and love, contained "explosions of a wonderful melody" and "voices of the past" (Du Bois, 1999, p.298; 1997, p.185) and also brought "hope - a faith in the ultimate justice of things." These songs contained sentiments linked with strength and the hope of ultimate victory, when men "will judge men by their souls and not by their skins" (Du Bois, 1999, p.308; 1997, p.192).

Although Du Bois eventually acknowledges the existence of cultural exchanges and musical mixtures, he does not lose the dimension of something that is distinctly black. For him, in attempting to divide the history of black music into periods, it was possible to think of a first stage (African music) and a second stage (African-American), while the third stage would be "a blending of Negro music with the music heard in the Foster land." The result was still distinctly black, "but the elements are both Negro and Caucasian." 71

Du Bois wrote in the last words of The Souls of Black Folk that the contribution of black people in the United States (and once again this echoes similar concerns held by Coelho Netto) needed to be publicized and recognized as a form of struggle, protection and appreciation: "Our song, our toil, our cheer, and warning have been given to this nation in blood-brotherhood. Are not these gifts worth the giving? Is not this work and striving? Would America have been America without her Negro people?" (Du Bois, 1999, p.310).

If in Brazil the association between music and social and/or racial identity, as expressed by Coelho Netto, was mainly orientated towards the construction of a mixed form of Brazilian popular music (the unique mixture of a cultural mix of black, indigenous and white), Du Bois's position of defending the continuity of the "songs of black people" was also found south of the equator. André Rebouças (1838-1898), who was an important black leader in the struggle for abolition in Brazil, just before Du Bois and Coelho Netto, also sought political and identity-centered explanations for the presence of song, dance and laughter among "black Africans."

From his exile in Africa, after the abolition of slavery and the proclamation of the Republic, Rebouças seems to have been better able to observe the directions of the African cultural legacy in the Americas and the relationship of black music with the reconstruction of identities after the end of slavery. On February 4, 1893, in the Cidade do Rio newspaper, which was edited by José do Patrocínio in Rio de Janeiro, his response was similar to that of Du Bois in that "black religious music" brought "hope - a faith in the ultimate justice of things." 72

Rebouças sought explanations for the laughter, song and dance of "black Africans" in the martyrdoms and the humiliations that they had undergone, which were reminiscent of the experiences of the early Christians who were sacrificed in the Roman circuses. In Rebouças's The Negro was African, pain and suffering are related to slavery in Brazil and to the form of Christianity that was appropriated by Africans in the Americas. Close to Du Bois in terms of origin and academic background, Rebouças also valued pain and religion, along with laughter, singing and dancing, to maintain the hope of those who have the "thirst for righteousness" and of those who felt the pain of subordination and humiliation. In the words of Rebouças, "That is why black Africans are always laughing, singing and dancing: looking towards the sky, always looking for Jesus; the faith and hope of the miserable and wretched, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, as he [Christ] said in his statement of superhuman eloquence." 73

By attributing a political direction to slave songs, as vehicles for hope and the struggle for justice of black people, Rebouças valued cultural expressions that would much later be considered by academic experts in the late twentieth century as landmarks in the construction of black identity in the Americas, such as laughter, singing and dancing (see Caponi, 1999). Once again in the post-abolition period, impressions and intellectual assessments of slave songs in the United States and Brazil were similar - this time between two black intellectuals, Rebouças and Du Bois.

Ironically, if laughter, singing and dancing were seen as weapons of struggle, and the expressions of the African cultural and political heritage, they were also used with completely opposite meanings in entertainment shows. As we shall see, laughter, song and dances (the "sounds of slavery") were used as the main representations to deprecate black people on stage, in the circus, in the arts and, by extension, in society throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Even for Du Bois and Rebouças, who were both learned men of their time, the African cultural legacy was not easily understood or valued.


Du Bois and Coelho Netto's evaluations of the "greatest gift of black people" or the "painful tradition of exile" were part of post-abolition discussions about how to incorporate former slaves into society in political and cultural terms, and they also dialogued with other interests and other people who were interested in the legacy of the slave songs. Du Bois and Coelho Netto were not alone.

Slave songs - and their heirs, black music - drew the attention of many other intellectuals, such as European modernist classical composers,74 as well as entrepreneurs (Brazilian and international) and urban groups hungry for cultural novelties. Slave songs were renewed through the diversity of the cakewalk and ragtime in the United States, the lundu and maxixe in Brazil, the rumba and son in Cuba, and the calypso in the English Caribbean. Slave songs invaded the modern American and European Atlantic cultural circuits and were successful on the stage and in the nascent music industry; they also opened up job opportunities for black musicians.75

However, the post-abolition musical field in the United States and Brazil was also a space in which those of African descent were represented through reconstructions of old racial stereotypes and through the creation of obstacles, both large and small, to thwart the upward mobility of black people in the artistic world. The meanings attributed to black characters and to black musical genres, in theaters, in sound recordings, and on the covers of sheet music76often represented allegories of racial inequalities that continued to be reproduced after the end of slavery.

Indeed, while music and dance of African descent were successful on the main stages of the contemporary world, at the same time there was a belief circulating across the whole Atlantic that non-whites were inferior and that limits had to be set regarding the access of former slaves to citizenship. Music and dance could also serve to naturalize, prioritize and ridicule cultural and racial differences and identities.

Du Bois and Coelho Netto knew very well what was at stake after abolition. In the "Sorrow Songs" chapter of The Souls of Black Folk Du Bois mentions the cartoons and ridicule that were directed towards black people and slave songs in the vulgar and debased imitations of popular music contained in minstrel shows and coon songs.77 Coelho Netto had watched batuques, "black fados" and jongos represented very successfully in costumed operettas and theatrical reviews in Rio de Janeiro since the 1870s. Incidentally, according to Silvia Cristina Martins de Souza, in Coelho Netto's novel The Conquest (1890) the character Rui Vaz - who was based on the playwright Arthur Azevedo - claims that the director of the Fênix Dramática Theatre, Mr. Jacinto Heller (one of the most successful theatrical empresarios of the 1880s) required "some couplets and a jongo for a comedy ... The man wants, at whatever cost, that blacks come on stage with maracas and drums, and that they dance and sing." It seemed that the public were demanding shows that contained "chirinola and saracoteios." 78 Writing about the "caxambu" for the O Paiz newspaper in 1892, Coelho Netto was well aware of the comic and artistic potential of slave songs.

Throughout the nineteenth century the popularity of minstrel shows was consolidated in the United States; these shows aimed to please audiences with the humor of minstrels, who were often represented by Blackfaces and black characters such as Jim Crow, Uncle Tom and Sambo (Boskin, 1986). Painted with black grease and exaggerated lips, the Blackfaces ridiculed the alleged ingenuity and musical joy of slaves in old southern plantations through their clothing (gloves and tails, for example) and by the performance of certain gestures and speech, They took to the stage "studied imitations of the ways in which slaves sang, danced and celebrated" (Abrahams, 1992, p.133). In the eyes of whites, especially before the Civil War, blacks were naturally funny, always laughing and susceptible to music, which helped to prove their alleged childishness and inferiority.79

The specialized literature on this subject in the United States is vast, and this issue was undoubtedly linked with the advances and defeats of the anti-racist struggles in that country throughout the twentieth century. In general, the most recent publications hold to the view that minstrel shows were significant in that they spread ideas about race, class and gender throughout the United States, and at the same time they made blackness a North American cultural commodity.80 However, it was impossible to control all the meanings contained in these shows because even if they made visible the idea of race and recreated racist imagery, they also carnivalized these certainties and opened up spaces for critical answers that were much more plural than might have been anticipated (Lott, 1996, p.9). As (Abrahams 1992, p.134), has observed, minstrels shows, with their slaves and black characters, were also able to act as vehicles that were critical of slavery, southern slave-owning attitudes, and the dehumanization of slaves.

The presence in Brazil of Blackface characters representing slaves and black people is still little known or investigated. Although there may be very few references to such behavior, it is not possible to simplify matters and deny that there were similar occurrences in the various musical shows, parties, circuses, and carnivals in Brazil. Some studies have identified Blackface scenes on stage and in entertainment in Brazil.

For example, Beatriz Loner, found evidence of masked members of the Nagô club imitating "the customs and attitudes of blacks" in carnival celebrations in Pelotas, Rio Grande do Sul, in February 1884. Besides the element of fun, Loner highlights the ambiguity of this presentation, because it was also linked to the solemnities of the abolitionist campaign, with its "meritorious character and social criticism," even contributing to the freedom of slaves (Loner, n.d). As Abrahams highlighted in relation to the United States, criticisms of slavery also seems to have accompanied musical representations of black people south of the equator.81

Carolina Dantas has identified the presence of a character referred to as "an old Black John," played by an Italian actor in a company of Italian artists in The Endowment, a play written by Arthur Azevedo and staged in Rio de Janeiro in the early twentieth century. Commenting on this play in the O Correio Paulistano newspaper of June 23, 1908, Olavo Bilac wrote that the "Black John played by an Italian actor would have been an admirable black" (Dantas, 2010, p.258). The fact that a white Italian actor interpreted the role of "Black John," does not seem to have aroused comments from this illustrious Brazilian academic.82

Certainly, whites and mixed race actors playing the roles of black characters and slaves on stage, with childish, submissive and funny stereotypes, cannot have been unusual because there were many theatrical and literary texts, such as The Endowment that included such representations throughout the nineteenth century (see Gomes, 1994, part 3; and Mendes, 1982). Herculano Lopes has pointed out that even in the theaters of comedy and theatrical reviews, spaces for black actors were denied, and they were also very limited for mixed race actors. Lopes writes that even in 1912, the São José theater company in Rio de Janeiro put on a successful play written by Luís Peixoto and Carlos Bittencourt called Forrobodó, "with a (supposedly) white cast representing characters who were almost all blacks and mulattos." 83 I managed to locate photographic records from the late 1920s of a theatrical review entitled The War of the Mosquitos showing the presence of Blackface characters and dancers representing blacks in scenes of urban life.84

In the light of this evidence, circus clowns may have been the nearest equivalent to North American Blackfaces in the context of Brazil. Although it is still far from a conclusive argument, I have records of clowns, either black or painted as black, who achieved recognition in the world of the circus, playing the fool for white audiences with famous lundus such as "Black Tongue" about the lives of slaves.85 The circus-theater was a very important popular artistic space between the late nineteenth and early twentieth century across the entire Atlantic world.86Some clowns, like the black musician Eduardo das Neves, worked in Rio de Janeiro in circuses owned by North American businessmen and they almost certainly facilitated the circulation of new music between North and South America.87 Dudu, as he liked to be called, when he was hired by the modern recording studio Casa Edison, recorded lundus that celebrated, in a humorous way, his repertoire of black characters, such as Father John, Father Francisco and Happy Black Forro. All these characters had strong similarities with North American characters, such as Uncle Tom and Uncle Remus, who were portrayed and sung about in "black language" in nineteenth-century literature and theater.88

Another important similarity with the minstrel shows in the United States can be identified in the presence, with more information available from the 1870s onwards, of the use of slave songs, such as jongos and lundus, to end operettas and theatrical reviews. These musical moments provided much fun, laughter and humor in a similar manner to cakewalks, the North American musical genre associated with the dance numbers by Blackface characters.89

Even before the 1870s, the songs and dances of slaves, such as cateretês, umbigadas, fados, lundus, jongos and batuquescould be found in writings by Martins Pena and Antônio Manoel de Almeida, as well as in shows associated with parties in honor of the Holy Spirit, in the Campo de Santana in the city of Rio de Janeiro (Abreu, 2009, Chap. 1). In these festivals, at the end of theatrical attractions "a jongo of black automata" was presented in the famous Teles tent, a kind of popular open-air venue starring artists who identified themselves as "mestizo". The famous actor Francisco Correa Vasques, who is recognized as the first artist to explore Afro-Brazilian dance at the end of theatrical performances, would have started his artistic life in this tent in the Campo de Santana (Abreu, 2009, p.76-100; Marzano, 2008; Magaldi, 2011, p.393).

Although they indicated the incorporation of Afro-Brazilian musical expressions, the use of lundus and jongos at the end of these shows (genres that were identified with the slave and black populations, especially in southeast Brazil) infantilized and deprecated the black population in grotesque and comic scenes, many of which were set in coffee plantations. However, by also conferring a critical and ironic character to slavery and imperial values, they revealed many representations of slaves and blacks on stage (Magaldi 2011, p.391-393). It should not be forgotten that the lundu was considered to be a comic and satirical genre par excellence, "which censored or ridiculed people, events, classes and other aspects of society" (Lima, 1953, p.7). In 1886, in the city of Rio de Janeiro, shows such as The Man-Woman and The Crook included jongos. A tune with the title "Jongo of the Sixty-Year Olds" - an obvious reference to the Law of the Sixty-Year Olds that had been passed the previous year - was a great success. The lyrics to "Jongo of the Sixty-Year Olds", which were analyzed by Silvia Cristina Martins de Souza, reproduced the images of submissive slaves, singing work songs and lauding their masters.90

Despite the difficulties underlying these types of stereotypical racial representations, black musicians were increasingly visible in the growing world of commercial entertainment, which incorporated circuses, bands, theaters and the nascent recording industry (from the 1890s in the United States and from the start of the twentieth century in Brazil). Blackface musical shows started to gain new meanings when black artists in the United States and Brazil began to interpret the art of minstrels in new ways, inverting meanings and gaining for themselves the popularity of the cultural market and increased earnings. Black musicians increasingly occupied spaces, seeking laughter from their audiences, and reversing the stereotypes that were assigned to them.

Excellent examples of this were the musicians Eduardo das Neves (1874-1919) and Bert Williams (1874-1922), the subjects of a comparative study that I am currently developing.91 They were recognized respectively for their lundus and cakewalks and they were protagonists in the birth of the music industry in both countries. Both men can be credited with giving other meanings to the representations of black musicians and the legacy of slave songs.

Despite the strong presence of musical and intellectual entrepreneurs, the musical field also expressed the struggles concerning equality and the appreciation of the cultural expressions of the descendants of slaves and Africans. It was also an important channel for communication and the expression of the identity and politics of black people and black artistic leaders in various parts of the Americas, as Du Bois referred to in his chapter "The Sorrow Songs". Slave songs, and their musical legacy, became a key way to combat racial oppression and domination, and to act in favor of social inclusion and citizenship in the post-abolition era in different regions of the diaspora.

In this article I hope to have opened up a wider discussion about the post-abolition musical field in the United States and in Brazil. Avoiding a formal and systematic commitment to a comparative history, I wish to draw attention to the dialogues and similarities between the experiences of black musicians, as well as the discussions involving the assessments of the legacy of slave songs - and the construction of the history of black music - before the 1920s.

In addition to the similarities between the depictions of Blackfaces in the United States and Brazil, it is also worth highlighting other dialogues. Cakewalks and ragtimes were played at dance venues in Rio de Janeiro and other cities in Brazil, and maxixes were mentioned in publications about dance in the United States in the early twentieth century.92 In Brazil, black musicians were inspired by black North American artists such as George W. Johnson, a former slave from Virginia who worked in the music industry and who recorded "laughing songs," a genre also recorded in Brazil by Eduardo das Neves (Palombini, 2011). Entrepreneurs linked to the United States were involved with circuses and the music industry throughout Brazil and in the major cities of Latin America (see Franceschi, 2002).

From the 1920s, the international commercial circuits of jazz and the more formal organization of black movements in Brazil created close and explicit ties between culture and politics in the Black Atlantic, both north and south (Pereira, 2013, Chap. 3; Butler 2011; Alberto, 2011). In a transnational phenomenon, African and Afro-American art and music took hold of intellectuals who were considered to be modern in the United States, France and Brazil, in the same way that the idea of the "New Negro" mobilized black intellectuals and musicians in the Americas. The modernist movement in Brazil was a tributary of international fashion, which valorized black and African art, especially in the field of music (Archer-Straw, 2000; Shack, 2001; Guimarães, n.d.).

In the 1920s, so-called jazz-bands, playing maxixes, sambas and cakewalks began to impose themselves on the music scene in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in both erudite and popular environments (Labre, 2013). Black groups of musicians also started to look more and more for novelties arising from the Black Atlantic, which circulated via New York and Paris. The renowned group of black musicians known as the Oito Batutas would have probably encountered jazz during the time they spent in Paris (Martins, 2009).

The transnational perspective in relation to the legacy of slave songs can make important contributions to the history of black music in Brazil, which, until recently, was constructed within the limits set by the nationalist landmarks of the 1920s and 1930s or the cultural policy of the Vargas governments.93 It can also contribute to providing a different perspective on the rather comfortable existing version of race relations in Brazil and the United States.94 The classic racial polarities between the two countries - appreciation of miscegenation in Brazil versus segregation in the United States - seem to be insufficient when evaluating the legacy of slave songs and the experiences of black musicians in the North and South Atlantics.

Following the ideas contained in research by Radano regarding the United States, it is possible to propose that in Brazil music also assumed an important significance in its ability to influence and to reflect the legacy of race relations (Radano, 2003 p.XIII). In the South Atlantic the field of music also represented a key space in the cultural policies of exclusion and incorporation, as well as in the game of the representation of African descendants in the new post-emancipation societies, as evidenced in the exemplary assessments of Du Bois, Coelho Netto and Rebouças, and the world of theatrical performances.

Furthermore, even considering the weight imposed by the Jim Crow laws in the United States, the options and the problems faced by black musicians in both countries were not that dissimilar. In the midst of constant novelties within the world of entertainment, they had to deal with the daily reproduction of racist maxims in the musical field, in addition to the powerful pronouncements of intellectual such as Du Bois and Coelho Netto.

Certainly, these musicians moved in very different worlds, represented by the modernity of the United States and Brazil in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, but they ended up imposing their own rhythms and tastes, as recent studies of the history of black music in the United States and of samba in Brazil seem to indicate.95 On several occasions they even managed to demonstrate the desire for the continuation of the legacy of slave songs and Africa itself, through spirituals and sambas, batuques and ring shouts. Despite national specificities, maxixes and samba, blues and jazz emerged at about the same time and are genres associated with black people and the legacy of slavery and Africa.

The "sounds of slavery" do not seem to have disappeared, long after the end of slavery itself.


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1Entre outros, ver o trabalho clássico de LEVINE (1977).

2Para o Brasil, ver REIS, 2002, e ABREU; VIANA, 2009. Para os Estados Unidos, ver ABRAHAMS, 1992. É importante destacar que os estudos sobre as canções escravas nos Estados Unidos são muito mais numerosos que no Brasil.

4Sobre a "descoberta" dos spirituals, ver ALLEN; WARE; GARRISON, 1995.

5Para a construção da relação entre música e identidade negra, ver GILROY, 2001, cap. 3; e RADANO, 2003, p.1-48. Quanto às relações entre processo abolicionista e racialização, RIOS; MATTOS, 2004.

6Sobre a escrita da música negra entre o final do século XIX e início do XX, os exemplos da produção nos Estados Unidos são também mais numerosos. Ver KREHBIEL, 1971; SANDERS, 2003, cap.1; COHEN (Ed.), 2005. Para o Brasil, ver ABREU; DANTAS, 2011, p.37-68.

7Vale enfatizar que não é meu objetivo realizar uma análise aprofundada da obra e trajetória dos autores em destaque, mas observar que suas observações, naquela conjuntura, expressaram dimensões significativas do debate sobre o legado da canção escrava.

8DU BOIS, 1997, p.148. Tradução para o português de Heloisa Toller Gomes (DU BOIS, 1999). Heloisa Toller Gomes não só fez um belo trabalho de tradução, como apresenta, na introdução, cronologia e notas com referências biográficas e bibliográficas sobre Du Bois. Para a tradução das citações de Du Bois, utilizarei o trabalho da autora. A expressão Negro Revival não foi traduzida, mas definida como "encontros com propósito de reavivar a fé religiosa, frequentemente envolvendo pregação apaixonada e muita música" (DU BOIS, 1997, p.240).

9Du Bois foi o primeiro negro a obter o Ph.D. em Harvard, em 1895. A tese, The Suppression of the African Slave-Trade to the Unites States of America, 1638-1870, foi publicada em 1896. Du Bois colaborou na organização de associações que lutavam pela defesa da população negra, como o Niagara Movement, em 1905, e a NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), em 1910. Em 1919 organizou o Primeiro Pan-African Congress, em Paris, e participou da organização de diversos outros Congressos Pan-Africanistas ao longo do século XX. Em 1935, publicou sua maior obra, The Black Reconstruction. Ver VIANA; ABREU, 2011.

10O The Souls of Black Folk, de 1903, era um livro ensaísta e literário, e tornou Du Bois conhecido nos Estados Unidos. Nesse livro, com ampliações e alterações, reuniu artigos que já haviam sido publicados em outros periódicos. No capítulo X, Of The Faith of the Fathers, Du Bois discutiu a importância da "música da religião negra" e da "igreja negra" nos sul dos Estados Unidos. As Sorrow Songs é o título do capítulo final (XVI). Os outros capítulos dedicam-se à pluralidade das Almas da gente negra, situando os negros norte-americanos em suas interconexões com a África, a Europa e as Américas. Ver Heloisa Toller Gomes, "Introdução", em DU BOIS, 1999, p.19-23.

11DU BOIS, 1999, p.241. "A sort of suppressed terror hung in the air an seemed to seize us, - a pythian madness, a demoniac possession, that lent terrible reality to song and world. The black and massive form of the preacher swayed and quivered as the words crowded to his lips and flew at us in singular eloquence. The people moaned and fluttered, and the the gaunt-cheeked brown woman beside me suddenly leaped straight into the air and shrieked like a lost soul while round about came wail and groan and outcy, an a scene of human passion such as I had never conceived before" (DU BOIS, 1997, p.148-149).

12DU BOIS, 1999, p.241-242. "The Music of Negro religion is that plaintive rhythmic melody, with its touching minor cadences, which, despite caricature and defilement, still remains the most original and beautiful expression of human life and longing yet born on American soil. Sprung from the African forests, where is counterpart can still be heard, it was adapted, changed, and intensified by the tragic soul-life of the slave, until, under the stress of law and whip, it became the on true expression of a people's sorrow, despair and hope" (DU BOIS, 1997, p.149).

13DU BOIS, 1999, p.298. "The Negro folk-song - the rhythmic cry of the slave - stands to-day not simply as the sole American music, but as the most beautiful expression of human experience Born this side the seas" (DU BOIS, 1997, p.186). Para o intelectual negro, o mundo ouviu as canções dos escravos de forma incrédula em função de sua rara beleza. Após ouvirem "as canções dos escravos" cantadas pelo Fisk Jubilee Singers, "o mundo jamais poderia esquecê-las" (DU BOIS, 1999, p.299).

14Heloisa Toller Gomes, "Introdução", in DU BOIS, 1999, p.7.

15Sobre a importância de Du Bois para a construção da música negra, ver GILROY, 2001, cap. 4. Evidentemente, em outros períodos de sua trajetória, Du Bois produziu trabalhos sobre a arte negra, mas não é meu objetivo neste artigo avaliar suas possíveis mudanças, nem suas opiniões críticas à cultura popular negra. Sobre Du Bois, ver também BRUNDAGE, 2003.

16Coelho Netto, "O Caxambu". O Paiz, Rio de Janeiro, 6 mar. 1892, p.1.

17O caxambu, mais conhecido como jongo, é uma dança em círculo acompanhada de tambores e palmas. Um casal no centro da roda apresenta as principais evoluções. Versos de improviso são colocados pelos velhos jongueiros e acompanhados em coro pelos participantes. Ver LARA; PACHECO (Org.) 2007, e o site "Jongos, Calangos e Folias",; Acesso em: 4 jan. 2014.

18Segundo Pereira, não era a primeira vez que Coelho Netto fazia referência a batuques e músicas dos escravos em seus textos. PEREIRA, 2012, p.89-90.

19As especificidades das lutas políticas dos libertos no pós-abolição foram trabalhadas em MATTOS; RIOS, 2005, p.17-29, e em GOMES; DOMINGUES (org.), 2011, p.7-10.

20Sobre o abolicionismo e reformismo republicano de Coelho Netto, ver PEREIRA, 2012, p.94, e SILVA, 2002, p.7-15.

21O debate entre os que defendem a presença de africanismos ou as evidências de crioulização é fértil na bibliografia sobre cultura negra nas Américas, desde o início do século XX. Sobre esse debate, ver PRICE, 2003; MAKUMA, 2011; SLENES, 1999, cap. 1 e cap. 3.

22A discussão e defesa do esquecimento dos sons da África entre os escravos e seus descendentes estava presente no tempo de Du Bois. Ver, por exemplo, PATTERSON, 2010, cap. 6.

23Heloisa Toller Gomes, "Introdução", em DU BOIS, 1999, p.11.

24DU BOIS, 1999, p.49-50; "Reflexão Prévia", 1. fev. 1903.

25"While the third is a blending of Negro music with the music heard in the Foster land. The result is stilll distinctively Negro and the method of blending original, but the ele mente are both negro and Caucasian" (DU BOIS, 1997, p.189). "Haveria uma quarta etapa, onde as canções da América branca mostram-se distintamente influenciadas pelas canções dos escravos, ou incorporaram frases musicais completas da melodia Negra", até mesmo com adulterações e imitações vulgares (DU BOIS, 1999, p.303-304).

26DU BOIS, 1999, p.308 (cap. sobre as "Sorrow Songs").

27Escrito em Barbeton, África do Sul, em 30 de maio de 1892, esse texto fazia parte de seus Idílios Africanos. Foi publicado no jornal A Cidade do Rio, em 4 de fevereiro de 1893. Os escritos de Rebouças sobre a África foram analisados em MATTOS, 2014.

28A bibliografia especializada costuma citar a influência dos spirituals e do folk-song negro-americano entre os compositores norte-americanos e modernistas europeus, como Dvořák, Debussy, Darius Milhaud e Stravinsky. Ver RADANO, 2003, p.74.

29DENIS-CONSTANT, 2011. Sobre esses circuitos atlânticos, ver MOORE, 1997; COWLEY, 1998; e WADE, 2000.

30As capas das partituras de cakewalks trazem inúmeros exemplos dos estereótipos criados em torno dos canções dos escravos. Ver MORGAN; BARLOW, 1992. Capas de partituras e de canções no Brasil do século XIX, uma delas com cena de batuque, foram trabalhadas em LEME, 2006, v.2, p.310.

31DU BOIS, 1999, p.299-301, 304. As canções escravas cantadas por artistas brancos e blackfaces trouxeram também desafios e preocupações a várias lideranças negras norte-americanas, como Frederick Douglass e James Weldon Johnson. Ver LOTT, 1996.

32Coelho Netto, apud SOUZA, 2010, p.147. Ver também MAGALDI, 2011, p.415. O romance A Conquista recriava a convivência literária de jovens intelectuais que lutaram pela Abolição e pela República, como o próprio Coelho Netto, Olavo Bilac, Arthur Azevedo e Paula Nei, entre outros. SILVA, 2911, "Introdução", p.9.

33Robin Moore, para os Estados Unidos, destaca duas fases dos espetáculos blackfaces: antes da guerra civil, os negros apareciam como felizes, servis e dóceis no trabalho das plantations. Com palhaçadas e falas incorretas, demonstravam sua estupidez e inferioridade, justificando a própria escravidão. Após a Abolição, foram retratados "de maneira a enfatizar a sua natureza promíscua, inescrupulosa e potencialmente perigosa", reforçando as justificativas para as políticas segregacionistas. MOORE, 2011, p.358.

35Sobre o riso e a crítica social em torno dos gêneros musicais e fantasias identificadas com a população negra nas festas e carnavais, há interessantes sugestões em BRASIL, 2011.

36Pai João era figura literária muito presente no teatro e na canção popular, entre o final do século XIX e primeiras décadas do século XX. Sobre as representações de "Pai João" na poesia popular e na produção dos folcloristas, ver ABREU, 2004.

37LOPES, 2009, p.102. Para Lopes, só a partir das primeiras décadas do século XX a personagem da mulata passou a ser representada por mestiças.

38Fotos da Peça "Guerra dos Mosquitos", Direção Olavo de Barros, 1928/29, Rio de Janeiro. Arquivo Brício de Abreu, Funarte. Alguns anos antes, em 1926, a Companhia Negra de Revistas, liderada por João Cândido Ferreira, o famoso De Chocolat, havia sido organizada para a atuação de atores e músicos negros. Sobre a companhia, GOMES, 2004, cap. 4; e BARROS, 2005.

39Ver ANDRADE, 1928, p.5-6. O ator negro Benjamin de Oliveira também fez sucesso no circo-teatro e utilizou a cara pintada de branco para fazer A Viúva Alegre no Rio de Janeiro, numa evidente inversão dos blackfaces, "o que provocou frisson na cidade" (LOPES, 2009, p.97).

40Sobre o sucesso do circo e do palhaço negro Chocolat na Paris do final do século XIX, ver NOIRIEL, 2012, cap. 3.

41Ver os obituários do Jornal do Brasil e do Correio da Manhã do dia 12 de novembro de 1919, data da morte de Eduardo das Neves no Rio de Janeiro.

42A fala incorreta dos descendentes de africanos (chamado de dialeto dos negros nos Estados Unidos) também foi encenada nos minstrels shows norte-americanos. Uncle Tom fez sucesso nos teatros de revista da Inglaterra e dos Estados Unidos, depois de ter sido figura central do romance abolicionista Uncle Tom's Cabin de Harriet Beecher Stowe, de 1852. Ver MEER, 2005.

43O cakewalk era o grande gênero musical dos minstrels shows. É considerado um gênero de dança e música originado das paródias dos escravos sobre as danças dos senhores no sul dos Estados Unidos. Ver MEER, 2005, p.11.

44SOUZA, 2010, p.155-160. Para a autora, mesmo que se leve em consideração a participação de muitos autores, atores e músicos do teatro musicado nas lutas pela Abolição, como Chiquinha Gonzaga, Arthur Azevedo, Francisco Correa Vasques, Cavalier Darbilly e Henrique Mesquita, eles não estavam distantes do preconceito ou da visão paternalista que buscava tutelar a ação dos escravos e libertos (ibidem, p.161).

45Sobre Bert Williams, ver CHUDE-SOKEI, 2006, p.61-68. Para a comparação entre Bert Williams e Eduardo das Neves, ver ABREU, no prelo.

46Em pesquisa na Biblioteca do Congresso dos Estados Unidos, localizei alguns manuais de dança, do início do século XX, que ensinam como dançar o maxixe. Por exemplo, NEWMAN, 1914. Sobre o cakewalk no Brasil, ver CAMPOS, 1904.

47Para uma crítica desses marcos nacionalistas, ver ABREU, 2011.

48A proposta de uma história transnacional pode ser entendida, nos termos propostos por Micol Seigel, como a busca pelas conexões que interligam pessoas e projetos. Essas conexões operam do local ao global, e vice-versa, sem expressarem alguma totalidade ou representarem algum típico perfil nacional (SEIGEL, 2009, cap. 2).

49Para os Estados Unidos, ver FLOYD JR., 1995. Para o Brasil, ver HERTZMAN, 2013; PEREIRA, 2008.

50Among others, see the classic study by LEVINE (1977).

51For Brazil, see REIS, 2002, and ABREU; VIANA, 2009. For the United States, see ABRAHAMS, 1992. It is important to point out that studies on slave songs are far more numerous in the United States than in Brazil.

53On the "discovery" of spirituals, see ALLEN; WARE; GARRISON, 1995.

54On the construction of the relationship between music and black identity see GILROY, 2001, Chap. 3; and RADANO, 2003, p.1-48. Regarding the relationship between the process of abolition and racialization, see RIOS; MATTOS, 2004.

55There are far more studies in the United States about black music in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century than in Brazil. See KREHBIEL, 1971; SANDERS, 2003, Chap.1; COHEN (ed.), 2005. For Brazil, see ABREU; DANTAS, 2011, p.37-68.

56It is worth emphasizing that it is not my intention to conduct a thorough analysis of the work and careers of these two authors but to note that their observations, in that context, expressed significant contributions to the debate about the legacy of slave songs.

57DU BOIS, 1997, p.148. Portuguese translation by Heloisa Toller Gomes (DU BOIS, 1999). Heloisa Toller Gomes provided an excellent translation into Portuguese and in her introduction she includes a chronology and notes, including biographical and bibliographical references about Du Bois.

58Du Bois was the first black person to be awarded a Ph.D. at Harvard in 1895. His thesis, "The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870" was published in 1896. Du Bois collaborated in the organization of associations fighting for the defense of the black population, such as the Niagara Movement in 1905 and the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) in 1910. In 1919 he organized the first Pan-African Congress in Paris and he participated in the organization of several other Pan African Congresses throughout the twentieth century. In 1935, he published his major work, The Black Reconstruction. See VIANA; ABREU, 2011.

59 The Souls of Black Folk, which was published in 1903, was a literary and essay-type book and it made Du Bois well-known in the United States. This book, with additions and changes, brought together articles that had been previously published elsewhere. In Chapter X, "Of the Faith of the Fathers", Du Bois discussed the importance of "black religious music" and the "black church" in the southern United States. "The Sorrow Songs" is the title of the final chapter (XVI). The other chapters are dedicated to the plurality of the souls of black people, situating black North Americans in their interconnections with Africa, Europe and the Americas. See Heloisa Toller Gomes, "Introduction," in DU BOIS, 1999, p.19-23.

60Heloisa Toller Gomes, "Introdução", in DU BOIS, 1999, p.7.

61On the importance of Du Bois for the construction of black music, see GILROY, 2001, Chap. 4. In other periods of his career, Du Bois produced work on black art, but it is not my intention in this article to assess his possible changes of opinion, nor his criticism of black popular culture. About Du Bois, see also BRUNDAGE, 2003.

62Coelho Netto, "O Caxambu". O Paiz, Rio de Janeiro, 6 Mar. 1892, p.1.

63 Caxambu, better known as jongo, is a circle dance accompanied by drums and clapping. A couple in the center of the circle take the lead. Impromptu verses are sung by old jongueiros and accompanied in chorus by the participants. See LARA; PACHECO (ed.) 2007, and the website: "Jongos, Calangos e Folias",; Accessed 4 Jan. 2014.

64According to Pereira, this was not the first time that Coelho Netto made reference to batuques and slave songs in his writings. PEREIRA, 2012, p.89-90.

65The specifics of the political struggles of former slaves in the post-abolition era are discussed in MATTOS; RIOS, 2005, p.17-29, and GOMES; DOMINGUES (ed.), 2011, p.7-10.

66On Coelho Netto's links with abolition and Republican reformism, see PEREIRA, 2012, p.94, and SILVA, 2002, p.7-15.

67The debate between those who defend the presence of Africanism or evidence of creolization is rich in the literature on black culture in the Americas, from the early twentieth century. About this debate, see PRICE, 2003; MAKUMA, 2011; SLENES, 1999, Chaps. 1 and 3.

68The discussion about the defense of forgetting the sounds of Africa between slaves and their descendants were present in Du Bois's time. See, for example, PATTERSON, 2010, Chap. 6.

69Heloisa Toller Gomes, "Introdução", in DU BOIS, 1999, p.11.

70DU BOIS, 1999, p.49-50; "Reflexão Prévia", 1 Feb. 1903.

71"While the third is a blending of Negro music with the music heard in the Foster land. The result is still distinctively Negro and the method of blending original, but the elements are both Negro and Caucasian" (DU BOIS, 1997, p.189). "One might go further and find a fourth step in this development, where the songs of white America have been distinctively influenced by the slave songs or have incorporated whole phrases of Negro melody... Side by side, too, with the growth has gone the debasements and imitations..." (DU BOIS, 1999, p. 303-304).

72DU BOIS, 1999, p.308 (Chapter on the "Sorrow Songs").

73Written in Barbeton, South Africa, on May 30, 1892, this text was part of his African Idylls. It was published in the A Cidade do Rio newspaper on February 4, 1893. The writings of Rebouças on Africa have been analyzed in MATTOS, 2014.

74The specialized literature often cites the influence of black spirituals and Negro folk-songs on North American and European modernist composers such as Dvořák, Debussy, Darius Milhaud and Stravinsky. See Radano, 2003, p.74.

75DENIS-CONSTANT, 2011. For more about these Atlantic circuits, see MOORE, 1997; COWLEY, 1998; and WADE, 2000.

76The covers of cakewalks scores contain numerous examples of stereotypes created around slave songs. See MORGAN; BARLOW, 1992. The covers to scores and songs in nineteenth-century Brazil, one with a drumming scene, are discussed in LEME, 2006, v.2, p.310.

77DU BOIS, 1999, p.299-301, 304. The slave songs sung by white performers and Blackfaces also represented challenges and concerns for several US black leaders such as Frederick Douglass and James Weldon Johnson. See LOTT, 1996.

78Coelho Netto, apud SOUZA, 2010, p.147. See also MAGALDI, 2011, p.415. The novel The Conquest recreated the literary coexistence of young intellectuals who fought for abolition and the Republic, such as Coelho Netto, Olavo Bilac, Arthur Azevedo and Paula Nei, etc. SILVA, 2911, "Introdução", p.9.

79Writing about the United States, Robin Moore highlights two phases of Blackfaces shows. Before the Civil War, blacks appeared as happy, servile and docile when working in the plantations. Through the use of antics and incorrect speech, they were portrayed as stupid and inferior, thereby providing a justification for slavery. After abolition, they were portrayed "in such a way as to emphasize their promiscuous, unscrupulous and potentially dangerous nature," reinforcing justifications for segregationist policies. MOORE, 2011, p.358.

81Concerning laughter and social criticism connected with musical genres, and costumes identified with black people at parties and carnivals, there are interesting suggestions in BRASIL, 2011.

82"Father John" (Pai João) was a very common literary figure in the theater and popular song between the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. On the representations of "Father John" in popular poetry and the work of folklorists, see ABREU, 2004.

83LOPES, 2009, p.102. In the opinion of Lopes, it was only from the first decades of the twentieth century that the character of the mulatto came to be represented by mestizo actors.

84Photos of the play War of the Mosquitoes, directed by Olavo de Barros, 1928-29, Rio de Janeiro. Brício de Abreu archive, Funarte. A few years earlier, in 1926, the Black Magazines Company, led by João Cândido Ferreira (the famous De Chocolat) was organized for the performance of actors and black musicians. About this company, see GOMES, 2004, Chap. 4; and BARROS, 2005.

85See ANDRADE, 1928, p.5-6. The black actor Benjamin de Oliveira also enjoyed success in the circus-theater and painted his face white to act in The Merry Widow in Rio de Janeiro, a clear reversal of Blackface, "which caused a stir in the city" (LOPES, 2009, p.97).

86On the success of circus and the black clown "Chocolat" in Paris at the end of nineteenth century, see NOIRIEL, 2012, Chap. 3

87On the success of circus and the black clown "Chocolat" in Paris at the end of nineteenth century, see NOIRIEL, 2012, Chap. 3.

88The grammatically incorrect speech of people of African descent (called Negro dialect in the US) was also used in minstrel shows in the US. The play Uncle Tom was successful in musical theaters in England and the United States; Uncle Tom was the central figure of the abolitionist novel Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852. See MEER, 2005.

89The cakewalk was the great musical genre of the minstrel shows. It is considered to be a dance and music genre that originated from parodies by slaves of the dances of southern slave-owners in the United States. See MEER, 2005, p.11.

90SOUZA, 2010, p.155-160. For Souza, even if one takes into account the participation of many writers, actors and musicians working in the theater in the struggle for abolition, such as Chiquinha Gonzaga, Arthur Azevedo, Francisco Correa Vasques, Cavalier Darbilly and Henrique Mesquita, they were still working in the shadow of prejudice or paternalistic views that sought to direct the actions of slaves and former slaves (ibidem, p.161).

91On Bert Williams, see CHUDE-SOKEI, 2006, p.61-68. For a comparison between Bert Williams and Eduardo das Neves, see ABREU, (forthcoming).

92Researching at the Library of the US Congress, I located some dance manuals from the early twentieth century aimed at teaching people to dance the maxixe. For example, NEWMAN, 1914. On the cakewalk in Brazil, see CAMPOS, 1904.

93For a critique of these nationalist landmarks, see ABREU, 2011.

94The proposal, as set out by Micol Seigel, that a transnational history can be understood as the search for connections that connect people and projects. These connections operate from local to global, and vice versa, without expressing any totality or representing any typical national profile (SEIGEL, 2009, Chap. 2).

95For the United States, see FLOYD JR., 1995. For Brazil, see HERTZMAN, 2013; PEREIRA, 2008.

Received: January 30, 2015; Accepted: February 23, 2015

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