Search and Visualization Tool
The Broken Paths of Freedom project began with a pilot visualization of the Africans rescued aboard the Cezar, a Brazilian-flag slaver intercepted by the British corvette Rover in April 1838 while sailing off the coast of southeastern Brazil. The pilot project sought to test out various methods to reconstruct and to visualize the passages through enslavement and freedom experienced by a cohort of named West Central Africans who moved from the illegally enslaved in Portuguese Africa to Free Africans [africanos livres] in the Brazilian empire. The timeframe for the pilot project is 1838 to 1865.
Drawing from a wide variety of nineteenth-century Brazilian, British, and Portuguese manuscript and print sources (i.e., trial records, nominal and address lists of the Free Africans and their guardians, almanacs, freedom petitions, diplomatic correspondence, and the press) the data provides the foundation for a number of static and dynamic visualizations that reveal individual and collective patterns of movement and experience in Brazilian slave society, notably in the capital city of Rio de Janeiro. The online Search and Visualization Tool presents the capacity to conduct a variety of spatial-temporal visualizations for each of the Cezar's 211 Africans in relation to their known concessionaires. In addition, the Tool allows the user to visualize in urban space and time the experiences of groups, filtered by a variety of demographic and experiential characteristics. Finally, the Tool allows for comparison with a second slaver, the Brilhante, also seized off the coast of Rio province in 1838.
A Note on Numbers
The historical records vary on how many Africans were associated with the Cezar. The highest figure, cited during the 1838 trial before the Anglo-Brazilian mixed commission installed in Rio de Janeiro, claimed that two-hundred sixty (260) Africans had been loaded at Ambriz (and possibly Luanda) in early 1838. The lowest figure, taken from a nominal list of the Africans compiled in mid-to-late 1864, is one hundred ninety (190). The pilot project settles upon the figure of two-hundred eleven (211), taken from a number of sources contemporaneous to the seizure of the two-masted patacho as well as two nominal lists completed in March 1864. It should be noted, however, that of the 211 named Africans who are the protagonists of the pilot project, the names of fifteen cannot be reliably linked with a registry number. In addition, the infant José (133, son of Umbelina Congo, 134) was born aboard the Cezar. Although matriculated as an Free African, some registries noted that he was a crioulo [native-born].
As of January 2013, one hundred forty-three (143) concessionaires have been associated with the Africans of the Cezar. This represents about 7.1% of the total number of public and private concessionaires who have been identified as holding a concession for one or more of the approximately eleven thousand Free Africans of Brazil tabulated in the final counts of 1868.