The Execution of Zumbi, the Last Warrior King of Palmares, in 1969

November 20, 2021

On November 20, 1695, the townspeople of Quilombo dos Palmares observed as Portuguese soldiers attached the severed head of Zumbi, the last Warrior king of Palmares, onto a stake right in the middle of the central plaza.

Palmares, then a city of runaway slaves, was home to about twenty thousand mixed ancestry settlers, free blacks, and Indians who repelled the constant assaults by the Portuguese for almost a century. And as Zumbi’s popularity grew, they all had more confidence to stand and fight.

Fugitive slaves represented a threat to Portuguese colonial rule. First, the runaway slaves lived communally, practicing subsistence agriculture, communal land ownership, and trade. They would also raid the settlers’ sugar mills and plantations to supplement their supplies.

Secondly, the Palmares community consisted of cultures with different beliefs and cultures from indigenous people, Bantu from central Africa, and catholic traditions. This amalgamation of different cultures meant they could borrow ideas and cultural practices, slowly evolving into one organized Palmares community.

As Zumbi organized his army of fugitive slaves, the ripple effects could be felt on the already fragile colonial ambitions of the Portuguese, fueling their frustrations and prompting them to fight back.

Though weak, the Portuguese went on the offensive against the Quilombo. They began a hunt for Zumbi in 1693, armed with an arsenal of weaponry, an influx of capital, and an army of mercenaries. And two years later, in 1685, they captured and executed Zumbi.

While the Portuguese defeated Zumbi’s guerillas, stories of Palmares seemed to fan the flames of resistance against slavery and military rule, racism, and capitalism, especially in the future generations. It also shaped the culture and Brazilian politics significantly.

13 Comments

  1. The REv Charles H Hensel

    Could this article be re-edited to remove the confusion in the various dates? Otherwise, it’s a great piece about some one about whom I’ve never heard.

    Reply
  2. Dwight

    Your title seems to be inaccurate. 1969?
    Perhaps you should edit it. 1695 yes.

    Reply
  3. Pat

    Your article on Zumbi/Palomares is hard to make sense of. How is it that 1683 is two years AFTER 1695??

    Reply
    • Pat

      And the execution of Zumbi in 1969???

      Reply
    • Bev

      I figure it’s a typo: should have been 1693. I was speaking with my sister the other day, and commented that there must not be any Proofreaders anymore! The misspelled and left out words are everywhere in today’s printed word!

      Reply
  4. Jen

    He was executed in 1695. Headline states “1969”, and later in the article, 1693 was mentioned as when they went to hunt for him and “two years later”, they killed him,”in 1685.
    What? Proofread and edit before posting the article….

    Reply
  5. katlady

    Proof read: please correct your dates. 1969?????

    Reply
  6. Katlady

    Please correct the dates on your heading. Thank you

    Reply
  7. Timothy Moore

    How does an article get published without being proofread first? Just asking 🤷‍♂️🤷‍♂️

    Reply
  8. Buckminster Pierpoint Bruno

    At that time Portugal was a leading country in trade and commerce. Is anyone familiar with Portugals History following this ? Well, I will tell you, they ended slavery and allowed the African to live among them, and mix within there culture. When the black population of Portugal hit 18% The country went from 1st, to 47, crime and poverty swept and rose to numbers uncontrolable. Here endith the lesson.

    Reply
    • Bev

      You can’t “endith” the lesson without also factoring in “prejudice” and “racism”. Your ended lesson is sorely lacking!

      Reply
  9. fred

    Interesting that the author equates slavey and racism with capitalism. I guess it shows where his heads at.

    Reply

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