Skip to main content Smithsonian Institution

Negroes in Brazil: A Study of Race Contact at Bahia

Catalog Data

Written by:
Donald Pierson, American, 1900 - 1995  Search this
Illustrated by:
Jean-Baptiste Debret, French, 1768 - 1848  Search this
Published by:
University of Chicago Press, American, founded 1890  Search this
ink on paper (fiber product), cardboard, and thread
H x W x D: 7 11/16 × 5 1/2 × 1 7/16 in. (19.6 × 14 × 3.6 cm)
hardcover books
Place depicted:
Bahia, Brazil, Latin America, South America
Place printed:
Chicago, Illinois, United States, North and Central America
A 392-page hard bound book entitled Negroes in Brazil: A study of Race Contact at Bahia by Donald Pierson. The cover is green with yellow text and graphics. The cover shows an outline of a map of South America with all countries except for Brazil filled in with yellow. Brazil has horizontal yellow lines crossing through its entirety. These lines continue to the left side of the South America outline. The uppermost and bottommost lines extend to the right side of the continent and frame the title of the book [NEGROES / IN BRAZIL] and the author’s name [DONALD PIERSON], which are both in yellow. The spine of the book is green with [PIERSON] underlined along the top edge. The title of the book is written between two sets of horizontal yellow lines. The University of Chicago Press publisher’s insignia is along the bottom edge.
The first page of the book includes a portrait of woman with the caption: [TYPICAL BAHIAN NEGRO GIRL].
In the Preface the author writes that the book will “contribute toward making better known and understood one aspect of Brazilian life, namely, the career of the Brazilian Negro.” The book hopes to answer the question: “What happened to the Africans who were imported in such large numbers into this part of the New World?” The book focuses on Bahia, the main Brazilian entry point for enslaved Africans. The first part of the book analyzes the racial, economic, and cultural factors that shape Bahian society. The second part examines the slave trade and race relations. The third part details miscegenation and the fading color line. The fourth part surveys with the racial composition of the classes in Bahia. The fifth section examines elements of the African culture that have survived in Bahia. The sixth section is a summary of Pierson’s findings and he argues that class over race is the determining factor in social position in Bahia.
There are a variety of illustrations and graphics in the book.
Page 5 has a geopolitical map of South America with [BAHIA] in Brazil filled in with thin diagonal lines. The caption for this photo is [MAP OF SOUTH AMERICA SHOWING BAHIA AND SURROUNDING AREA].
Facing page 16 shows an image of a large structure in the Portuguese colonial style labelled [THE RICOS OF THE RIDGES] which translated to the “The Rich of the Ridges”.
Facing page 19 shows an image of multiple, cramped homes with tile rooves and other features common in regional vernacular architecture. The image is labeled [THE POBRES OF THE VALLEYS] which translates to “The Poor of the Valleys”.
Facing page 76 shows a painting by Jean-Baptiste Debret with the caption [A BRAZILIAN FAMILY OF THE EARLY NINETEENTH CENTURY]. This graphic shows a Brazilian family leaving their home dressed in gala attire for a [customary Sunday promenade]. The family is in a single file line, led by the patriarch, followed by two young daughters and the mother. At least six enslaved individuals follow behind the family as they leave their home.
Facing page 78 shows another painting by Jean-Baptiste Debret with the caption [A DOMESTIC SCENE IN COLONIAL BRAZIL]. This painting shows a Portuguese woman and children and five enslaved individuals engaging in a variety of domestic activities. The scene looks peaceful, but at the far-left side of the sofa sits a whip, suggesting that the scene could turn violent at any given moment.
Page 259 shows an artistic duplicate of [SYMBOLS OF THE SOOTHSAYER’S ART PAINTED ON THE WALL OF A NEGRO DWELLING IN MATATU]. This artistic depiction is circular in form, with vines making up the bottom two thirds of the circle. Two decorative sugar bowls are depicted at the top of the image. Below the sugar bowls there is a circle with an illustration of an upside-down U-shaped object with circular shapes throughout. Above the circle is a book open to pages that read [THE LORD / IS MY / HELPER / WAIT ON / THE LORD / AND KEEP / HIS WAY]. On the left side of the circle, there is a flogger and, on the right, a knife. Two pears are below the circle. There is a phrase at the top of the image which reads [Suru ni ogun aiye] which translates to “Calm/patience conquers the world”.
Facing page 287 is an image of a woman in traditional Candomblé festival attire with a white garment and layers of long and short necklaces. The caption reads [FILHA DE SANTO IN CEREMONIAL COSTUME READY TO ASSIST IN Candomblé RITUAL / In her hand is the symbol of Xangô, the orixá of lightning. (Photo- / graph by Friar Tomaz.)].
Appendix B, which begins on page 262 features [COMMON SAYINGS REGARDING THE NEGRO] which are composed of misconceptions and stereotypes.
The book has no markings, signatures, or inscriptions on the exterior or interior of the object.
African American  Search this
African diaspora  Search this
Catholicism  Search this
Colonialism  Search this
Communities  Search this
Cooking and dining  Search this
Emancipation  Search this
Families  Search this
Folklife  Search this
Foodways  Search this
Free communities of color  Search this
Holidays and festivals  Search this
Portuguese colonialism  Search this
Race relations  Search this
Religion  Search this
Stereotypes  Search this
Trans Atlantic slave trade  Search this
Credit Line:
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
Object number:
Restrictions & Rights:
© Donald Pierson
Permission required for use. Proper usage is the responsibility of the user.
See more items in:
National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection
Documents and Published Materials-Published Works
Data Source:
National Museum of African American History and Culture