Analysis | Who are the whitened black intellectuals

The objective of Black Consciousness Day is not only to talk about the great leader who was Zumbi, but also to reflect on the culture of the African people and the impact they had on the evolution of culture not only in Brazil, but in the world. Sociology, politics, religion, arts, history and gastronomy, among many other areas, were deeply influenced by black and African cultures and their descendants.

I take advantage of this date to present some black intellectuals who were whitened or not recognized in our history, not only in Brazil, but in various parts of the world. Racism is a process that has tried throughout history to make the importance of black people invisible, which is why it is so important to retell the story correctly.

Maria Firmina dos Reis was an important writer from Maranhão. She was engaged in the movement for the abolition of slavery, even writing a Hymn to Abolition.

Chiquinha Gonzaga. Documents show that her mother was a child born freed to an enslaved mother. Chiquinha actively participated in the fight for abolition, putting up posters and raising funds for the cause. His name and that of his father are on the list of donors for the pen with which the Lei Áurea was signed.

Nile Peçanha he was the first president of black descent in Brazil, taking office with the death of president Afonso Pena. Despite his dark complexion, he hid his African origins. Some researchers claim that his presidential photographs were retouched to whiten his dark skin, precisely to fit the whitening standard imposed for being part of high society.

Afonso Henriques de Lima Barreto he was a famous Brazilian writer and grandson of enslaved people, coming from a situation that bordered on misery. In 1911, he wrote “The Sad End of Policarpo Quaresma”, his main work.

Machado de Assis he was an inky black man who bet on culture as a way of social ascension, to the point of becoming a civil servant and library director, known throughout the city. He inaugurated Brazilian realist literature with “Memories Posthumous of Brás Cubas” (1881), inspired by Balzac. Until today, Machado de Assis is one of the greatest references in Portuguese-speaking literature.

Betty Boop. The person the character was inspired by, singer Esther Jones, was black. Her acting on stage is what inspired cartoonist Max Fleischer to create the character Betty Boop. Esther has spent her life fighting for the rights of the character who, in fact, was her playing on stage.

Medical family. It is impossible to study the Italian Renaissance – and basically the entire history of Western culture – without going through the Medici. What history does not usually remember is that the origin of the family comes from an Italian-African mother, of Moorish origin, who married a white man. The most important European family at the time was of black origin.

Santa Claus is a fictional figure, but the character he was inspired by is St. Nicholas. The saint was born in the region where Turkey is today, around the year 270 BC where, at the time, the inhabitants were almost entirely people of African origin. Ancient images depict the color of the saint’s skin.

Cleopatra he was of Egyptian origin and did not have the European traits that the arts try to show, but rather the traits of North African blacks.

Saint Augustine he is a fundamental character for the basic studies of philosophy and theology. What is missing from the story is that he was born in Tagaste, Numidia, a city surrounded by forests in North Africa. In other words, he was African.

Alexandre Dumas, author of “The Three Musketeers” and “The Count of Monte Cristo” was the son of a white general with a black slave. His black features are evident in photographs and records, but in many artistic representations Dumas is portrayed as a white man.

These are just a few examples that show every day that history does not only need to be retold with the enormous contribution of black people, but that racism acts in various ways so that black people are not part of society’s achievements.

*Rosana Fernandes is head of the São Paulo Chemical Workers Union. Graduated in Social Work and Unionism, Education and Work. Militant of the Feminist movement, she was the first National Youth Secretary at the CUT. He is in his second term as deputy director of the National Secretariat for Combating Racism.

**This is an opinion piece. The author’s vision does not necessarily express the editorial line of the Brazil in fact.

Source: BoF Paraná

Edition: Lia Bianchini

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