Rio Blanco Law of 1871: A Step Towards Abolition In Brazil

0 Posted by - February 8, 2023 - SLAVERY

Named after the Viscount of Rio Blanco and Prime Minister, Jose Paranhos, the Rio Blanco law was an 1871 law that allowed for the children of slaves to be born free. This gives the Rio Blanco law the other name of “Law of Free Birth.”



In addition to that, the slaveholders who held the parents would have to provide for the children until they reached the age of 21. The loophole to this was that a slaveholder could turn the children over to Brazil and receive payment.

There were a few other flaws in Rio Blanco. While people took to it and started to nudge the country towards abolishing slavery, it didn’t have widespread effect throughout Brazil. As a matter of fact, it was only effective in the north which was more economically flexible. This would result in those freed elsewhere in Brazil moving north to take up jobs that paid. Elsewhere in Brazil simply didn’t take to wage labor at the time.

This isn’t to say that Rio Blanco was a law with no effect. While it wasn’t embraced nationally, it did loosen the grip of slavery’s hold on Black Brazilians to a degree. The main problem economically rested with plantations that were slow to adopt new modes of labor.

Similar to plantations in the South throughout the late 19th century, some began to collapse due to a diminishing labor force as people moved elsewhere. By the time slavery was ended on May 13, 1888, as a result of Lei Aurea, some plantations had a workforce but not a workforce that could manage the acreage. These plantations shut down or sold off the land.

Some freed Black Brazilians would come up with their own occupations or even resort to organized crime as a result of few plantation work opportunities in some regions.


1 Comment

  • A reader August 18, 2019 - 5:29 pm

    Blanco is a Spanish word, its Portuguese equivalent is Branco, as you can see in the Britannica entry.