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Dandara dos Palmares (1654 - 1694)

Updated: Jan 17

Dandara dos Palmares was a legendary figure in Brazil who fought against slavery and racism in the 17th century. She was a fierce warrior and general who led men and women into battle. She is recognized as an icon of the struggle against racism and resistance against slavery in Brazil.

Dandara was one of the first Black women leaders who fought against the system of slavery in the 17th Century; she helped her husband Zumbi strategize his plans of attack and defense of the quilombo. Dandara was the wife of Zumbi, the leader of the Quilombo dos Palmares. Zumbi dos Palmares is celebrated as one of the most important figures in the resistance to slavery in Brazil. Alongside her husband, they defended the Quilombo or Brazilian Maroon community of Palmares from Portuguese incursions. Dandara had 3 children with Zumbi: Motumbo, Harmodio, and Aristogiton.

Dandara was part of the Quilombo dos Palmares. Quilombo is a settlement of runaway slaves; a maroon community. Palmares was Brazil’s most famous quilombo, established in the late sixteenth century in the northeastern region of Alagoas. It was composed of several mocambos (village-sized communities) united to form a neo-African kingdom. Some inhabitants of Palmares were Brazilian born, while others were from Africa, especially West Central regions such as Angola. Palmares became economically self-sufficient by diversifying agricultural production. Colonial authorities perceived this self-sufficiency to be a threat to the system of slavery in Brazil and sought to resettle or eliminate the maroons. The quilombo resisted incursions from both the Dutch and the Portuguese to survive for nearly a century.

Zumbi dos Palmares

In 1693, the Portuguese assembled an army of mercenaries, local indigenous, and enslaved people to overtake Palmares. The army killed around 5000 men and captured the king, his sons, nephews, government and court officials, and members of the nobility. They also captured and executed Zumbi two years later.

The Palmares region continued to host many smaller runaway settlements, but there is no longer the centralized state in the mountains.

Dandara dos Palmares was captured on February 6, 1694. She killed herself rather than return to slavery. Some accounts say she jumped from a high peak when she realized the fight was lost.

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