In the dark history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade few can be unaware of the “golden triangle” of trade between Britain, West Africa and North America.
Which makes Britain and the US the two largest African-slave-owning nations, right?
Well, not quite.
In fact Britain traded in, but did not in any meaningful way own slaves. We Brits had our own dark form of home-grown servitude and sourced our labour from Ireland.
We also ate a lot of sugar. And that is where the other side of the slavery story comes into play.
In fact far more Africans were captured and shipped to Brazil than to any other country, and Brazil was the last country in the western world to abolish slavery.
Given Brazil is closer to Africa than any other country in the New World (Senegal to Brazil is less than half the distance of London to New York) and the similarities of climate that shouldn’t be a real surprise, although in fact most of the slaves that went to Brazil came from Angola, way down south.
Like in the USA, Brazil has its share of stories of atrocities and also stories of courage and bravery, but few are known of in the English-speaking world.
Fantagraphics, “home of the world’s greatest cartoonists,” is helping put the record straight with the English-language publication of Brazilian cartoonist Marcelo D’Salete’s Run For It: Stories Of Slaves Who Fought For Their Freedom, which is reviewed this week over at AV Club.
Run For It is a collection of short stories told in graphic format which, in the words of Shea Hennum,
avoids many of the pitfalls that hobble the familiar slave narratives, which are typically authored by white writers. There are no white saviors, there are no sympathetic white liberals, there is no attempt to minimize the pain—physical, mental, spiritual—that slavery wrought on millions of people.
Not that this is new, but it is a welcome reminder, at a time when comics are indelibly associated with American superheroes, that graphic artists are using the format more and more to tell compelling stories that shine a light of further-flung corners of the globe.