Crossroads of Freedom

Slaves and Freed People in Bahia, Brazil, 1870-1910

Crossroads of Freedom

Book Pages: 344 Illustrations: 16 illustrations Published: April 2016

Author: Walter Fraga

Translator: Mary Ann Mahony

Contributor(s): Mary Ann Mahony, Robert W. Slenes

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies

By 1870 the sugar plantations of the Recôncavo region in Bahia, Brazil, held at least seventy thousand slaves, making it one of the largest and most enduring slave societies in the Americas. In this new translation of Crossroads of Freedom—which won the 2011 Clarence H. Haring Prize for the Most Outstanding Book on Latin American History—Walter Fraga charts these slaves' daily lives and recounts their struggle to make a future for themselves following slavery's abolition in 1888. Through painstaking archival research, he illuminates the hopes, difficulties, opportunities, and setbacks of ex-slaves and plantation owners alike as they adjusted to their postabolition environment. Breaking new ground in Brazilian historiography, Fraga does not see an abrupt shift with slavery's abolition; rather, he describes a period of continuous change in which the strategies, customs, and identities that slaves built under slavery allowed them to navigate their newfound freedom. Fraga's analysis of how Recôncavo's residents came to define freedom and slavery more accurately describes this seminal period in Brazilian history, while clarifying how slavery and freedom are understood in the present. 


"Mary Ann Mahony has adeptly translated one of the best monographic histories of slaves for the vast sugar lands of Brazil. . . . This book extends Fraga’s 2004 dissertation and is a must read for specialists of slavery, emancipation, or Brazil, and, if contextualized, should be compelling to undergraduates and general readers as well. Highly recommended." — I. W. Read, Choice

"Undeniably an important study [that] points the way to a richer understanding of Brazilian slavery in the years around 1888." — Ryan Schumacher, Sounds and Colours

“This rich collection of documents constitutes a major contribution to the literature on post-emancipation Brazil.” — Oscar de la Torre, EIAL

"[C]arefully researched ... Crossroads of Freedom provides unique insights into what happened next following the emancipation of the slaves from the sugar plantations of Recôncavo." — Eugene Carey, Latin American Review of Books

"Crossroads of Freedom is a pleasure to read and a tremendous contribution to the study of slavery and abolition." — Anadelia A. Romano, Journal of Latin American Studies

"A masterful translation. . . . Crossroads of Freedom provides valuable insight into not only slavery and freedom in the Recôncavo of Bahia and Brazil by extension, but also how these social forces informed Brazilian race relations more generally and the directives of the black liberation struggle in terms of battling persistent patterns of social inequality." — G. Reginald Daniel, Bulletin of Latin American Research

"Crossroads of Freedom is a work that is both historiographically valuable and accessible for undergraduate students." — Michael Shane Powers, Journal of Global South Studies

"Impeccably translated. . . . Besides its relevance to the history of slavery and abolition, Crossroads of Freedom is an important contribution to social history and labor history." — Mariza de Carvalho Soares, American Historical Review

"Walter Fraga's book is undoubtedly one of the most important results of Brazilian social history that has been produced in the past 15 years." — Alain El Youssef, European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

"Mahoney’s introduction and added comments in the endnotes help set the stage for this extraordinary story of abolition and freedom." — Dale T. Graden, History: Reviews of New Books

"Drawing on outstanding research into the notarial, parish, and judicial records from the heart of the old sugar plantation area of Bahia, Walter Fraga recaptures many of the individual stories that illuminate the process of slavery's end and the adjustments of masters and slaves to that process. Featuring fascinating stories with a strong human dimension, Crossroads of Freedom makes a wonderful contribution to an already-rich historiography."  — Stuart B. Schwartz, author of Sea of Storms: A History of Hurricanes in the Greater Caribbean from Columbus to Katrina


Availability: In stock
Price: $28.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Walter Fraga is Associate Professor in the Department of History of the Federal University of the Bahian Recôncavo in Cachoeira, Bahia, Brazil.

Mary Ann Mahony is Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University. 

Table of Contents Back to Top
A Note on Currency and Orthography  vii

Introduction to the English-Langauge Edition / Mary Ann Mahony  xi

Foreword to the Brazilian Edition / Robert W. Slenes  xxiii

Acknowledgments  xxvii

Introduction  1

1. Slaves and Masters on Sugar Plantations in the Last Decades of Slavery  9

2. Tension and Conflict on a Recôncavo Sugar Plantation  29

3. Crossroads of Slavery and Freedom, 1880–1888  56

4. May 13, 1888 and Its Immediate Aftermath  74

5. Heads Spinning with Freedom  103

6. After Abolition: Tension and Conflict on Recôncavo Sugar Plantations  139

7. Trajectories of Slaves and Freed People on Recôncavo Sugar Plantations  161

8. Community and Family Life among Freed People  190

9. Other Post-emancipation Itineraries  211

Epilogue. In the Centuries to Come: Projections of Slavery and Freedom  236

Notes  245

Glossary  283

Bibliography  285

Index  301
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Honorable Mention, 2018 Best Book Translation Prize from the New England Council of Latin American Studies

Named a 2017 Outstanding Academic Title by Choice Magazine

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6090-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6076-6
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