May 13, 1888, and Its Immediate Aftermath
This chapter begins by describing the celebrations that followed the announcement of the end of slavery in Brazil, on May 13, 1888. The explosions of joy as well as the parades of recently freed slaves and abolitionists through the streets of the cities and towns are examined for their various meanings. It is evident that they were celebrating the end of slavery and the political victory over those who still believed that the social relations of slavery should still be maintained. But those events also contained other meanings. The end of slavery took place at the height of a very large social movement. The participants in that movement believed that the end of captivity would be the beginning of a new era of prosperity and social conquests. This chapter also explores what happened when, in the first days after abolition, the masters had to confront the harsh reality that they no longer had any slaves and the ex-slaves had to confront the harsh reality that they would have to fight to make freedom real and take their places as citizens.