The article is a progress report on an on-going research program on slavery in the Brazilian Northeast. The characteristics of slave labor outside the coastal sugar zone of Pernambuco province are investigated. It is found that there were significant slave holdings in the cattle-raising, cotton-growing regions of the province, in the backlands, contrary to a commonly-held belief that those activities were not suited to be performed by slave labor. Slave holdings were generally small; and the demographic profile of the slave population was that expected of a labor force productively used by profit-maximizing slave-owners. The proportion of the value of slave holdings in total assets is surprisingly high, and does not tend to decrease after the sharp increase in slave prices in the second half of the nineteenth century. Those findings add to the increasing evidence, in the literature, on the importance of small slave holdings in Brazil.
Slavery; Brazil; slave labor; Brazilian Northeast