Recent advances in studies of Brazilian slavery and abolition contrast with the lack of attention to what happened to freedmen and women after emancipation. Some scholars compare the trajectories of Afro-Brazilians and immigrants in the state of São Paulo, but rarely study everyday relations between them. This article, based on police investigations and criminal trial records resulting from violent conflicts between Italians and blacks, complemented by census data, examines the tensions between these groups after abolition in the municipality of São Carlos, which was on the coffee frontier and attracted large numbers of immigrants. Italians and Afro-Brazilians often worked in the same occupations, leading to Italian fears of leveling with blacks, which were heightened by planter and police mistreatment of immigrants. Interactions leading to violence between the two groups and depositions of witnesses reveal acute symbolic conflicts. Afro-Brazilians insisted that they be treated with dignity and respect, refusing to humble themselves in interactions with Italians, but Italians demanded deference. The insults in these fights constituted classification struggles, in which each side tried to associate the other with negative characteristics. The demographic preponderance of immigrants, combined with collective rancor against blacks, favored group aggression by Italians against isolated black individuals.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 1123-1152
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.