As a college student at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Assistant Professor of History Isadora Moura Mota served as a research assistant for scholar Flávio dos Santos Gomes, who studies the history of slavery in Brazil. While delving into old records at the National Archives, Mota learned for the first time about the many rebellions that enslaved Brazilians mounted in the 19th century. “I was fascinated by these stories that had been silenced for such a long time,” she says.
Mota went on to devote her own career to the study of slavery in Brazil, which was the longest-lasting slave society in the Western world, spanning from the 16th century until 1888. About 5 million people in Brazil were enslaved during that time period. “Brazil was a full-blown slave society, but its other legacy is that it was a cradle of abolitionist ideas, especially coming from the enslaved,” Mota says.
Mota at the ruins of the Valongo port in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Photo credit: Isadora Moura Mota