About Zumbi dos Palmares
Zumbi (pronounced: 'zoombee') (1655 – November 20, 1695), also known as Zumbi dos Palmares, was the last of the leaders of the Quilombo dos Palmares, in the present-day state of Alagoas, Brazil.
Zumbi was born free in Palmares in 1655, believed to be descended from the Imbangala warriors of Angola. He was captured by the Portuguese and given to a missionary, Father António Melo, when he was approximately 6 years old. Baptized Francisco, Zumbi was taught the sacraments, learned Portuguese and Latin, and helped with daily mass. Despite attempts to pacify him, Zumbi escaped in 1670 and, at the age of 15, returned to his birthplace. Zumbi became known for his physical prowess and cunning in battle and was a respected military strategist by the time he was in his early twenties.
Leader of the Quilombo dos Palmares
By 1678, the governor of the captaincy of Pernambuco, Pedro Almeida, weary of the longstanding conflict with Palmares, approached its leader Ganga Zumba with an olive branch. Almeida offered freedom for all runaway slaves if Palmares would submit to Portuguese authority, a proposal which Ganga Zumba favored. But Zumbi was distrustful of the Portuguese. Further, he refused to accept freedom for the people of Palmares while other Africans remained enslaved. He rejected Almeida's overture and challenged Ganga Zumba's leadership. Vowing to continue the resistance to Portuguese oppression, Zumbi became the new leader of Palmares.
Fifteen years after Zumbi assumed leadership of Palmares, Portuguese military commanders Domingos Jorge Velho and Bernardo Vieira de Melo mounted an artillery assault on the quilombo. February 6, 1694, after 67 years of ceaseless conflict with the cafuzos, or Maroons, of Palmares, the Portuguese succeeded in destroying Cerca do Macaco, the republic's central settlement. Before the king Ganga Zumba was dead, Zumbi had taken it upon himself to fight for Palmares' independence. In doing so he became known as the commander-in-chief in 1675. Due to his heroic efforts it increased his prestige. Palmares' warriors were no match for the Portuguese artillery; the republic fell, and Zumbi was wounded in one leg.
Though he survived and managed to elude the Portuguese and continue the rebellion for almost two years, he was betrayed by a mulato who belonged to the quilombo and had been captured by the Paulistas, and, in return for his life, led them to Zumbi's hideout. Zumbi was captured and beheaded on the spot November 20, 1695. The Portuguese transported Zumbi's head to Recife, where it was displayed in the central praça as proof that, contrary to popular legend among African slaves, Zumbi was not immortal. This was also done as a warning of what would happen to others if they tried to be as brave as him. Remnants of quilombo dwellers continued to reside in the region for another hundred years.
November 20 is celebrated, chiefly in Brazil, as a day of Afro-Brazilian consciousness. The day has special meaning for those Brazilians of African descent who honor Zumbi as a hero, freedom fighter, and symbol of freedom. Zumbi has become a hero of the twentieth-century Afro-Brazilian political movement. And he is a national hero in Brazil as well.