Black movement in the military dictatorship

Image: Min An


The collaboration of a professor from FFLCH-USP with the Security and Information Office (ASI) at USP – a persecution of the black movement

(Panel cover: “The black man in Brazil”, by Fernando Mourão)[I]

“Everything is dangerous.\ Everything is divine and wonderful.\ You need to be attentive and strong” (Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil).

Recent research investigates the archives of information systems created during the last Brazilian business-military dictatorship, from 1964-1985 (KÖSSLING, 2007; MOTTA, 2008; LIMA, 2021; PEDRETTI, 2022). Some research does not work directly with the archives, but cites other research on them (RIOS, 2014, SILVA, 2018b; TRAPP, 2021).

In addition to presenting espionage mechanisms in academia, Kössling (2007) and Motta (2008) point to a network of collaborations in the structure of these information systems. In her research, Lima (2021) analyzes a document indicating the contribution of sociologist and psychoanalyst Virgínia Bicudo to the National Information Service (SNI) (BRAZIL. Report: 72057640).

The document I will examine is referral no. 118 of the Security and Information Advisory (ASI), of the University of São Paulo, of April 19, 1977. The note on the cover of this document appears: “We are forwarding the panel, carried out by Prof. Fernando de AA Mourão, from the Center for African Studies, 'The Black in Brazil'” (SÃO PAULO. Dossier 50-K-104-3115).

The panel has seven typewritten sheets. Attached to the document are: a xerox of one of the notebook pages illustrated from the newspaper Folha de S. Paul, April 15, 1977; the copy of Eduardo de Oliveira e Oliveira's project on the “fortnight of studies on black people in Brazil”, sent on January 29, 1977 to the management of the Faculty of Philosophy (FFLCH-USP); a copy of the program of the cycle of activities: “Black people in North American life: from independence to our days”, organized by Eduardo de Oliveira e Oliveira and held at the São Paulo Museum of Arts (MASP), between August 28 and September 8, 1976.

This document is found among the DEOPS files maintained at the São Paulo State Archive, identified with the code: 50-K-104-3115. In this folder there are other documents from ASI-USP on the same panel, with different dates and without the name of the collaborator.[ii]

When investigating “campi spies”, Motta (2008) refers to the document with the code 50-K-104-3113, which persecuted Eduardo de Oliveira e Oliveira. This is referral no. 132 of ASI-USP, dated April 26, 1977. The author of this document: “remained anonymous and asked Aesi staff to take care to avoid identification” (MOTTA, 2008, p. 394, note 89).[iii]

In his master's thesis on social history, carried out at FFLCH-USP, probably in a period of little openness for the recognition of the contribution of a professor to ASI-USP, Kössling (2007) analyzes the panel “O Negro no Brasil”, but does not mention the authorship of the document.[iv] His records and theoretical reflections on the DEOPS archives were fundamental to this research.

Since 1964, the governments of the business-military dictatorship began to rely on the National Information Service (SNI). Following the Information Sector Plan, approved by the Ministry of Education and Culture, from 1971 onwards, each federal university needed to create an AESI. Although it is a state university, USP also created its AESI (MOTTA, 2008).

“O Negro no Brasil” was prepared by Fernando Mourão, who at the time was a professor at FFLCH-USP and director of the Center for African Studies. This document was sent to the Security and Information Advisory (ASI) or Special Security and Information Advisory (AESI), which operated from 1972 to 1982 within the rectory of the University of São Paulo (COMMISSION OF TRUTH OF THE UNIVERSITY OF SÃO PAULO. 2018).

References to Abdias do Nascimento

“Brazil has been attacked on several levels at international meetings. I had the opportunity, in two of them, to take the floor in order to defend our image, fortunately, both, successfully.[v] Recently, at the Colloquium on Education that took place within the scope of the II World Festival of Black-African Arts, Mr. Abdias do Nascimento appeared as an observer. Having had his thesis rejected Racial Democracy in Brazil. Myth or Reality?, began to systematically attack Brazil, a fact widely known by the authorities who, in this sense, were informed from Lagos, in a reserved manner. The attacks directed by Mr. Abdias do Nascimento were extremely violent and at the time it was found that the same man had a huge support scheme, mainly from the North American black delegation which, in previous meetings, had already attacked Brazil, demanding that the Brazilian delegation was made up only of black people. Since this fact has been widely informed to those entitled, there is no occasion to go back in detail. Mr Abdias do Nascimento, who is expecting a German edition of his work soon, has announced a new book: The Genocide of Black Brazil. Recent information from a professor friend states that Mr. Abdias' employment contract with the university of Ifé, Nigeria, was terminated as of next June. During the meeting, which fortunately ended in favor of Brazil and in which a large number of Africans supported us, I was attacked several times, in plenary, by Mr. Abdias do Nascimento, as a representative of the official version of the Brazilian Government.

In this regard, it is worth mentioning the fact that the Brazilian press (Headline nº 1.300 of 19/3/77 p. 65 and VISION v. 50 nº 6 of 21/3/77, p. 80 and 81, in an article signed by the correspondent) not taking into account that the matter should not be reported, raised the problem in terms favorable to Mr. Abdias do Nascimento's thesis (read the subtitle of the Visão article – Politics and Bureaucracy) . To the extent that the Newspapers in Brazil I was providing calm coverage and at the request of this newspaper I gave an interview about the Colloquium, with two objectives in mind: to identify Mr. Abdias do Nascimento's stance on the international intrigue – although without mentioning him – and to give a vision that would draw the attention of African diplomatic representations, in a manner favorable to Brazil” (SÃO PAULO. Dossier 50-K-104-3115).

“It is strange that on that same page, after the end of the Lagos Festival, and when it was no longer news, an article appears under the title “African Brazil”, which is a repetition, although more intriguing, of the articles published in VISION (v. 50, n. 6 of 21/3/77, p. 80 and 81) and in Headline (n. 1300, of 19/3/77, p. 65). This is an article written by the same journalist sent by VISION (replacing another reporter). In addition to the seriousness of the matter itself, highlighting the Theses of Mr. Abdias do Nascimento, the fact that it is published together with the article 'Blacks unite' is regrettable, symptomatic, as it could reach this 'soul' audience. The material, moreover, contains untruths and inaccurate quotes” (SÃO PAULO. Dossier 50-K-104-3115).

The rejection of Abdias do Nascimento's thesis at the II Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) or, as it became known, the World Festival of Arts and Black Culture, held in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1977, was discussed by Nascimento in two books: The genocide of the Brazilian black, published in Brazil in 1978, and Besieged in Lagos (Self-defense of a black man harassed by racism), published in 1981.

At the beginning of The genocide of the Brazilian black, Abdias do Nascimento transcribes the reasons given by Colonel Ahmadu Ali, president of the festival committee, for rejecting his thesis in the program, among which it stands out that the forum was not the appropriate space for the propagation of ideological beliefs. [vi] Despite this, Nascimento participated as an observer in the working group on “Black Civilization and Historical Consciousness”. The North American delegation and the Brazilian delegation, coordinated by Fernando Mourão, were part of this group.

During the meetings, Abdias do Nascimento distributed copies of his thesis to the participants. With the support of the North American delegation, Nascimento tried to include among the final recommendations of this group an investigation into the conditions of black people in Brazil (NASCIMENTO, 1978). This recommendation was vehemently criticized by the Brazilian delegation, who questioned Abdias do Nascimento's authority to propose something as a mere observer.

Besieged in Lagos it was written after the acquisition of a set of confidential telegrams from the Brazilian embassy in Lagos to Azeredo da Silveira, Minister of Foreign Affairs (NASCIMENTO, 1981). According to Abdias do Nascimento, an African militant brother sent him the telegrams in 1979.[vii] In an interview, Chancellor Azeredo da Silveira indicates that he is informed of what happened in Lagos:

“At this event, we were heavily attacked by representatives of the United States regarding African politics and the problem of racial discrimination. They stated, during the conference, that saying that there was no racial prejudice in Brazil was nonsense. The most curious thing is that all Africans rose to our defense. This was very significant” (SPEKTOR, 2010, p. 99).  

The foreign policy of Chancellor Azeredo da Silveira (1974-1979) supported a responsible and ecumenical pragmatism. This meant: seeking maximum advantages, regardless of the regime or ideology, avoiding an unethical stance and expanding partnerships (VIZENTINI, 2004). In 1974, following one of the guidelines of the Carnation Revolution, Portugal began a policy of decolonization of Africa (SECCO, 2003). A commercial opportunity arose that Chancellor Silveira could not waste. [viii]

A few months after the Carnation Revolution, the editorial “Brasil Africano”, published by Newspapers in Brazil dealt with the independence movement in Africa.[ix] Presupposing the historical experience of racial democracy in Brazil, the editorial argues that Brazilian diplomacy contributes to “the creation of multiracial nations” (BRASIL AFRICANO, 1974, p. 5).

In November 1977, the newspaper Versus, in its Afro-Latino-America section, coordinated by Hamilton Cardoso, published the thesis that Nascimento had prepared for the Lagos festival “Racial democracy: myth or reality?”. This is a text that takes up the criticisms of Florestan Fernandes (1964) and Thales de Azevedo (1975)[X] to the myth of racial democracy: “Brazil, as a nation, proclaims itself to be the only racial democracy in the world, and a large part of the world sees and respects it as such. But, an examination of its historical development reveals the true nature of its social, cultural and political structure: it is essentially racist and vitally threatening to black people” (NASCIMENTO, 1977, p. 40).

Em The genocide of the Brazilian black, Abdias do Nascimento denounces the government imposed by the business-military dictatorship for preventing political and academic debate on the reality of racial democracy: “the current Brazilian government tries to censor, intimidate and silence research institutions and scholars foreigners who are concerned about the situation of black people in Brazil” (1978, p. 79-80). [xi]

The book was dedicated to Florestan Fernandes, with the addition of praise: “example of scientific integrity and human courage” (NASCIMENTO, 1978, p. 13). Florestan Fernandes was also invited to write the preface for the Brazilian edition. Since the book deals with the events of the Lagos festival, the preface by Florestan Fernandes indicates his support for Abdias do Nascimento in the confrontation with Fernando Mourão. In the text, Florestan Fernandes comments on his affinity with Abdias do Nascimento: “We are in the same boat and fighting the same fight – not today, but for years” (1978, p. 19). Among the book's qualities, Florestan Fernandes highlights the denunciation of the genocide of the black community: “It is a terrible and shocking word for conservative hypocrisy. However, what was done and continues to be done with black people and their descendants deserves another qualification?” (1978, p. 21). [xii]

In this passage from the panel, Fernando Mourão indicates that he sent reports from Lagos about Abdias do Nascimento's interventions. He also offers other information about Abdias do Nascimento reported by a professor friend. At the end of his analysis on this topic, Fernando Mourão criticizes the coverage of the festival by part of the mainstream Brazilian press, suggesting that it did not act as it should.

His criticisms are directed at the report “Nigeria: the great party of black art”, by Borges Freire (1977), published in the magazine Headline, on March 19, 1977, and the report “From the arts to African unity”, by Mirna Grzich (1977a), published in the magazine VISION, on March 21 of the same year. [xiii] In addition to criticizing these reports, Mourão attaches to the panel the article “African Brazil”, [xiv] also by Grzich (1977b), published in the newspaper Folha de S. Paul, on April 15, 1977. In contrast to these reports, which comment on Nascimento's thesis denied at the Lagos festival, Fernando Mourão refers to the interview he gave to Roberto Pontual (1977) for the Newspapers in Brazil, on March 19, 1977.

In your article for Folha de S. Paul, Mirna Grzick[xv] brings important information about the Lagos festival: “There are still rumors that the coordinator of the Brazilian representation would be Professor Eduardo de Oliveira e Oliveira. But the position was occupied by professor Fernando Mourão, from the Center for African Studies at USP, who best represents Itamarati's thinking” (1977, p. 40).

References to North American theorists

“On the other hand, another type of interests appears in the book published in Brazil in 1976. Black in White – Race and Nationalism in Brazilian Thought – by Thomas E. Skidmore, Editora Paz e Terra, where the so-called 'Traditional official position' is attacked, as well as bodies responsible for Brazilian politics, presented as creators of a false ideology. The black problem is once again treated in racial terms. This book has been highly commented (Jornal da Tarde – 9/8/76). The Prof. Skidmore, who attacks government bodies in his work, has been to Brazil several times, where he is recently, with a view to creating an Institute of International Relations with the support of the Ford Foundation”.

“The book by Prof. Skidmore, extremely dangerous for Brazil, as it raises the problem that the miscegenation thesis is not a fact, but a thesis constructed, among others, by a government body, is being used abroad in attacks on our country and also in the internal. The advertising gave an importance to this book that it did not, for example, give to the work of Carl Degler – Neither Black nor White, Editora Labor, Rio 1976, criticized – the North American edition – in an article in the magazine Argument (January 1974).

The problem, in the last two years, began to be studied in terms of ethnicity (see: GLAZER, Náthan – Ethnicity: a global phenomenon, Dialogue, v. VII – nº 5 – 1975 and ETHINICITY Theory and Experience, edited by Nathan Glazer and Daniel P. Moynihan, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1975. Treating the problem in terms of ethnicity 'recent information from Brazil seems to show that blacks in Brazil are beginning to constitute an ethnic group', says Nathan Glazer, p. 20 of the translation published in Dialogue, shows the new trend, extremely dangerous for Brazil. On the one hand, on the external level, it contrasts with the image of miscegenation that characterizes us and, on the internal level, it can become, together with other variables, some already mentioned, an element of the disturbance of the social order. For different reasons we see communists and some non-communists congregating around the same point, mainly on the external plane” (SÃO PAULO. Dossier 50-K-104-3115).

In this passage, Fernando Mourão resumes his criticisms of North American intellectuals. The reflections of Thomas Skidmore (1976) and Nathan Glazer (1975) are considered dangerous, while those of Carl Degler (1976) are admissible. None of these authors participated in the Lagos festival. [xvi] An article by Eduardo de Oliveira (1974), questioning Degler's theses, is also criticized.

The central theme in the debate involving these authors is the role of miscegenation in the construction of the vaunted Brazilian racial democracy. The first intellectual criticized is Skidmore, who Fernando Mourão reports was in Brazil at that time. [xvii] in your book black in white, Skidmore denounces the political use of the miscegenation thesis by a series of Brazilian governments: “An attitude that reached its climax in 1951, when the government published a leaflet extolling the virtues of the Brazilian type of race relations in comparison with the racist system in force in the U.S. Since the booklet was published in English by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and included an introduction by Gilberto Freyre, there could be no doubt that it was intended to promote a favorable image of the country abroad” (1976, p. 229).

In the short introduction to the pamphlet or book by Eugene Gordon, a black American researcher, Gilberto Freyre presents miscegenation as a “Brazilian solution” to ethnic conflicts: “In a world that seeks to avoid the effects of rigid antagonisms that divide it into irreconcilable social or ethnic groups, the 'Brazilian solution', as considered by this young man from the University of California with a North American perspective enlightened by sociological studies, gains more importance every day as an experiment and perhaps as an example to be followed” (FREYRE , 1951, p. 6).

In the same book, Skidmore (1976) comments on the controversial decision of the census commission in 1970 to exclude the question of color from the research. Regardless of the technical arguments used by the commission, Skidmore (1976; 1991) highlights the importance that these data would have for the development of academic research and the creation of public policies.

Carefully following the positions of the intellectuals of the Brazilian delegation at the Lagos festival, Abdias do Nascimento (1978) criticizes the reference to the 1970 census made by sociologist Manuel Diégues Júnior. Among the materials distributed by the delegation was a small book by Diégues Júnior presenting an overview of the African presence in Brazil. In the introduction to the book, the sociologist states: “The total Brazilian population in 1970, the year of the last census, was distributed throughout the Brazilian territory with greater or lesser intensity of one of the groups, with the predominance of the white element being evident, which is why , in Brazil, even a mixed-race person who has something, small or large, of black or Indian blood, but does not present the physical appearance of one of these groups, is already considered white. This testifies to the absence of any discrimination of a racial nature, regarding the person’s ethnic origin” (DIÉGUES JÚNIOR, 1977, p. 8).[xviii]

A position in line with this is defended by another author mentioned by Fernando Mourão. When investigating racism in Brazil and the United States, Degler (1976) identifies a difference in the condition of mulatto. While in Brazil, miscegenation opens up the possibility of social mobility, black people in the United States do not change their social category depending on their skin color: “Thus, the condition of mulatto in Brazil represents an 'emergency exit' (exhaust hatch) for black people, which is not possible in the United States” (DEGLER, 1976, p. 118).

The weakness of black rights organizations in Brazil would be related to this “emergency exit” to escape the most extreme racism practiced against the black population: “The very domination of a social ideology that proclaims the absence of prejudice in Brazil prevents many black people from to affirm their blackness through organizations” (DEGLER, 1976, p. 190). Furthermore, social mobility ends up keeping mulattoes away from black organizations.

In the text “The mulato, an epistemological obstacle”, by Eduardo de Oliveira e Oliveira (1974), also mentioned by Fernando Mourão, these theses by Degler are criticized. Firstly, Oliveira argues that Degler constructs an image of the mulatto condition that does not match the Brazilian reality. For Oliveira, the Brazilian mulatto cannot escape the opposition that manifests itself in racial relations. On the other hand, the history of black protest in Brazil attests to a significant contribution by several mulattoes: José Correia Leite, Arlindo Veiga dos Santos, Francisco Lucrécio, Raul Joviano do Amaral, Henrique Cunha and others.

Still regarding the strength of rights organizations, Oliveira cites a text by Marvin Harris (1970), which also analyzes the black issue based on a comparison between Brazil and the United States. Contrary to what Degler argues, Brazil would not be in worse conditions in the fight for the rights of the black population. Since there is a correspondence between class and race in Brazil, the blacker a person's phenotype, the more precarious their class is: “Black Power in the United States lacks the revolutionary potential of the preponderant mass; Black Power in Brazil contains this potential” (HARRIS, 1970, p. 12). [xx]

The last text mentioned by Fernando Mourão is by sociologist Nathan Glazer (1975). This text deals with the role of ethnicity in black organizations in Brazil, North America and other countries, which Mourão interprets as an “extremely dangerous new trend for Brazil”. As Kössling (2007) points out, in 1976, this same text was republished in the magazine Archives, from the São Paulo Civil Police.

By Glazer's definition, “breed tends to refer to the biological aspect of group difference, ethnicity to a combination of the cultural aspect with a putative biological element due to the presumption of common descent” (1975, p. 20). In this sense, ethnic groups tend to bring together a wide spectrum of people, despite possible phenotypic differences between them.

Ethnic groups promote stronger and more lasting cohesion than unity around social class. Ethnic identity is constructed from elements that deeply mark the human and social personality: language, religion, family experiences, physical self-image, etc. Class identity generally ceases to exist when social mobility occurs.

Another important point is the tendency towards the globalization of ethnic conflicts: “the cases of Angela Davis and other black militants received as much attention in Western Europe as in the United States” (GLAZER, 1975, p. 25). According to Glazer, recent information shows that black Brazilians are already beginning to understand themselves and organize themselves as an ethnic group.

References to black associations

“It is believed that elements linked to the extinct Black Front intend to reappear in new ways. Cultural manifestations, such as theater, capoeira and others, revolving around the 'struggle' of black people (note the language used) have been announced, as well as meetings and formation of 'black' groups. The racial problem is reopening itself, mainly, due to the influence of the various North American black movements, some of which have revolutionary characteristics and, apparently, infiltrated, among others, by communist elements”. (SÃO PAULO. Dossier 50-K-104-3115).

“Along with the emergence of the 'Black' movement in São Paulo, several other signs emerge. Thus it appears that proselytism has been developed with Black Associations and Samba Schools, including Casa Verde”. (SÃO PAULO. Dossier 50-K-104-3115).

“'Blacks unite' – article that reports on an artistic meeting between elements from São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The matter deserves analysis. Until this date, the 'soul' movement was active in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, but without apparent connections” (SÃO PAULO. Dossier 50-K-104-3115). “About a year ago I delivered a detailed report on the subject in general” (SÃO PAULO. Dossier 50-K-104-3115).

On July 7, 1978, just over a year after this document was forwarded to ASI-USP and, later, to DEOPS-SP, students from USP and other universities participated in a protest against racism in front of the Theater Municipal Council of São Paulo (PEREIRA, 1978). The following took the floor at the demonstration: “Milton Barbosa, Clóvis Moura, for the Brazilian Institute of African Studies, Eduardo de Oliveira and Abdias do Nascimento” (MOURA, 1983, p. 73). A new stage in black struggles in Brazil began. The Unified Black Movement (MNU) emerged. [xx]

Among the university students who helped create the MNU in São Paulo were: Eduardo de Oliveira e Oliveira, a doctoral student in Social Sciences at USP; Rafael Pinto, graduating in Social Sciences at USP; Vanderlei José Maria, graduating in Philosophy at USP; Milton Barbosa, graduating in Economics at USP; José Carlos (Jamu Minka), recently graduated in Journalism from USP; Henrique Cunha Júnior, recently graduated in Engineering from USP; Ivair Augusto dos Santos, recently graduated in Chemistry from USP, Maria Inês Barbosa, who studied Social Work at Faculdades Metropolitanas Unidas; Hamilton Cardoso, Neusa Maria Pereira and Flávio Carrança, who studied Journalism at Faculdade Cásper Líbero. [xxx]

In the study he carried out in the 1950s with Roger Bastide and other researchers, Florestan Fernandes analyzed black protest up to that time: “these movements seek to openly defend a more homogeneous integration of black people into the country's social life, instead of assuming trends of racial segregation ” (1955, p. 195). [xxiii] With this purpose in mind, several associations linked to the Frente Negra Brasileira (FNB) invested in the education, professionalization and housing of black families. For the FNB, the integration of black people would be the best weapon in the fight against racism.

Upon returning to Brazil after (self)exile in the United States and Canada, Florestan Fernandes returned to working with the black movement. According to the testimony of activist Milton Barbosa, in the late 70s, some MNU leaders had systematic meetings with Fernandes (CUSTÓDIO, 2017). In an interview with young activists Rafael Pinto and Vanderlei Maria, the sociologist discusses the political and ideological perspectives of the FNB and the MNU: [xxiii]

“Compared to the racial protest movements of the 1930s and 1940s, today the level of counter-violence in the black movement has changed in quality. (…) This means that the movement has become politicized and radicalized. This is how I analyze the demonstration of July 7, 1978 by the Unified Black Movement, because, while in the 1930s and 1940s black people sought to inhibit the ideological content of racial protest, now the tendency is to raise the level of ideological radicalization and at the same time at the same time politicize the protest, in order to have the maximum explicit attack on the existing order” (FERNANDES, 2017, p. 97). [xxv]

There was not just a rupture between the MNU and the FNB. One of the ways FNB encouraged the integration of black people was to develop campaigns for the acquisition of land and the construction of their own homes in peripheral regions of the city of São Paulo (FERNANDES, 1978; BARBOSA, 1998). In the 30s and 40s, the neighborhoods of Casa Verde and Parque Peruche became strongholds of the black community (BARONETTI, 2021a; BARONETTI, 2021b). Some of the most influential MNU activists were born in these neighborhoods and maintained dialogue with FNB leaders. [xxiv]

From 1965 onwards, the Associação Cultural do Negro (ACN), which was directed by FNB leaders, began to be coordinated by lawyer Gilcéria de Oliveira and Eduardo de Oliveira e Oliveira, leader of the MNU (SILVA, 2012b; TRAPP, 2018 ). [xxv] After a financial crisis, ACN had to leave its headquarters in the Martinelli building, in the center of São Paulo, and moved to other addresses until establishing itself in Casa Verde (BARONETTI, 2021a). In addition to participating in the coordination of ACN, Oliveira was one of the creators and directors of the Center for Black Culture and Art (CECAN) (SILVA, 2012a).

According to Gilcéria de Oliveira, FNB's main source of financing was donations from people close to Eduardo de Oliveira: “He was considered a first-class intellectual. Valued for being an intellectual like the intellectuals at USP. Marilena Chaui, Paula Beiguelman, Antonio Candido, Florestan Fernandes, that famous painter Aldemir Martins collaborated with the Association. All these people collaborated, paying a monthly amount to maintain it. We had no official funding. (…) Financially, Eduardo was the one who guaranteed the functioning of the Association” (SILVA, 2018b, p. 124).

In 1974, as soon as they entered USP, Rafael Pinto and Milton Barbosa were invited by actress and activist Thereza Santos to contribute to CECAN (BARONETTI, 2021b). In common, ACN and CECAN offered community tutoring courses. One of these community courses, aimed at young people from the extinct favela Ordem e Progresso, was held at the headquarters of the Camisa Verde e Branco samba school, which was located next to this favela in Barra Funda. [xxviii] Taught by black students from USP, this course dealt with black issues. Inspired by a class on African history, William Santiago, one of the young people who followed this course, named his dance team and record company Zimbabwe.[xxviii]

In addition to its recreational importance, the organization of parties and dances was a necessary practice for the financial maintenance of black associations and samba schools (BARONETTI, 2021a). In the mid-70s, samba schools started renting their courts to hold black dances (VIANNA, 1987). An addition to the panel by Fernando Mourão (SÃO PAULO. Dossier 50-J-0-5373) analyzes a report from the Fantástico program about black dances and samba. [xxix] In the report, Beatriz Nascimento criticizes the relevance of these dances for the black protest. [xxx] Defending another position, a text from the newspaper Versus (UM GRITO NO SOUL, 1978) suggests the dissemination of texts about the fight for racial equality during these dances. [xxxii]

When Fernando Mourão sent the panel to ASI-USP, the Casa Verde district had two samba schools: Morro da Casa Verde and Unidos do Peruche. The two schools have historical relationships with the black issue (BARONETTI, 2021a). In the 70s, police repression of Unidos do Peruche was extremely violent. On January 19, 1974, just before Carnival, the school was invaded by 20 military police (COMANDANTE DA PM, 1974). According to Mr. Carlão do Peruche, president of the school: “There was no time to do anything, not even to talk. They've already thrown stun bombs, shooting above people's heads. I remember one of them aimed his gun at me and said: 'Run, black man!'” (BARONETTI, 2021a, p. 344). [xxxi]

References to Eduardo de Oliveira e Oliveira

“The press recently reported the holding in Fortaleza of the annual meeting of the SBPC, in July, and among the highlighted themes is the work of Mr. Eduardo de Oliveira e Oliveira 'Black Brazil', the result of research he has been carrying out in recent years years. By the way, the aforementioned gentleman who presented a panel at the celebrations of the Bicentennial of the Independence of the United States (xerox) and was apparently linked to black North American groups (there is talk of an invitation to a black Brazilian choir) is pleading for the direction of the House of Afro-Brazilian Culture (?) to be created by the Municipality of São Paulo. The idea itself is interesting, but it is important to carefully choose those responsible” (SÃO PAULO. Dossier 50-K-104-3115).

“The aforementioned gentleman, who, it seems, is working in the Office of the Secretary of the State Secretariat for Culture, Science and Technology of the State of São Paulo, is proposing the carrying out of a 'fortnight of studies on black people in Brazil'. The idea itself is excellent, what is dangerous is that the coordination is in the hands of the aforementioned element, in addition to the fact that some of the people indicated to participate in the 'fortnight', for example, the anthropologist Juana Elbein dos Santos (Bahia) has been developing activities in the field of 'black' in a negative perspective'.

“It is understood that the aforementioned activity is intended to begin soon. He did not receive support from the director of FFLCH at USP, but it is natural that he tries to get around the problem, seeking support at a departmental level, within the scope of FFLCH or, if he is unable to do so, from some other entity outside USP, which is not It will be difficult, since, apparently, the proposal, according to the letterhead, comes from the State Secretariat for Culture, Science and Technology of the State of São Paulo” (SÃO PAULO. Dossier 50-K-104-3115).

During this period, Eduardo de Oliveira e Oliveira was pursuing a doctorate in sociology under the guidance of João Baptista Pereira (TRAPP, 2018). According to Hugo Zambukaki, an MNU activist, even though he was away from USP, Florestan Fernandes served as Oliveira's informal advisor (CUSTÓDIO, 2017). One of the common characteristics in their research was the focus on urgent issues for the black community.

In this sense, a dossier on Fernandes in the DEOPS archives states: “In the newspaper Last Minute, dated 10/04/78, in an article entitled 'Why Abolition', it appears that the marginalized person would be one of the few scientists who studies and fights for the black race, and talks about the problems of today's black people” (SÃO PAULO. Dossier 50-Z -0-14616).

The program for the “Black Brazil” table at the 29th annual meeting of the SBPC, in 1977, coordinated by Eduardo de Oliveira, also included debate on current topics: Eduardo de Oliveira – From a science for and not just about black people; Clóvis Moura – From good slave to bad citizen (From Slavery to marginalization); Carlos Hasenbalg – Diagnosis of racial inequalities in Brazil; Beatriz Nascimento – Quilombos and sociocultural resistance; Juana Elbein – Historical perception and socio-ideological implications in approaching black Brazilians (SBPC, 1977).

In Oliveira's project for “the fortnight of studies on black people in Brazil”, sent to the management of FFLCH-USP and attached to the ASI-USP and DEOPS panel (SÃO PAULO. Dossier 50-K-104-3115), some The guests are the same as those at the SBPC table: Carlos Hasenbalg, Beatriz Nascimento and Juana Elbein. Regularly, these intellectuals participated in meetings of the André Rebouças Working Group (GTAR), at the Universidade Federal Fluminense, which also had the collaboration of Peter Fry and Yvone Maggie (SILVA, 2018a).

The black fortnight was sponsored by the Department of Arts and Human Sciences of the Secretariat of Culture, Sciences and Technology of the State of São Paulo (PINTO, 1977). The lectures and debate tables took place at the Faculty of Psychology at USP, between May 23 and June 7, 1977. The event also featured a cycle of films that portray black people, at the Museum of Image and Sound (MIS), an exhibition on the black press (1918-1960), at the Pinacoteca do Estado and an exhibition of Afro-Brazilian objects, at the USP Archeology Museum (KNAPP, 1977).

Gabriel Priolli's report on black fortnight, for the TV Culture, became the documentary The black man from the slave quarters to the soul, a fundamental record of some characters from the black movement.[xxxii] In addition to the conferences with renowned researchers in the academic world, the black fortnight organized a “Round table with Afro-Brazilian university students”. In his participation at this table, Rafael Pinto criticized the form of black studies, “its intellectualist character, that is, disconnected from the reality of black people” (TRAPP, 2018, p. 174). [xxxv]

The 29th annual meeting of the SBPC was scheduled to take place between July 6th and 13th, at the Federal University of Ceará, in Fortaleza. One month before the meeting, the government of the business-military dictatorship vetoed the resources for its holding (SOCIEDADE SEM APOIO, 1977). It was considered transferring the meeting to USP, but the university rectory did not authorize it. With the support of Cardinal D. Paulo Evaristo Arns, the meeting ended up taking place at the Theater of the Catholic University (TUCA), at PUC in São Paulo (COMISSÃO DA VERDTADE DA PUC-SP, 2017).[xxxiv]

The table on “Black Brazil” coordinated by Eduardo de Oliveira had repercussions in the mainstream press. O Newspapers in Brazil highlighted his proposal to create a higher school of studies on racial relations and Clóvis Moura's analyzes on the relevance of black balls in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo for black protest (SOCIÓLOGO NEGRO, 1977). The report also reported Oliveira's indignation at the non-attendance of some speakers scheduled to be part of the panel: Carlos Hasenbalg, Beatriz Nascimento and Juana Elbein. [xxxiv]

In a letter sent on July 4, 1977, Hasenbalg justified his absence from the SBPC table to Oliveira: “Given that the national climate is beyond Marrakesh and as the meeting will take place in high political rotation, I thought it best – as a foreigner that I am – adopt a line of prudence” (TRAPP, 2018, p. 190). In the same letter, Hasenbalg claims he had good reasons for missing the meeting.

An addition to the panel by Fernando Mourão (SÃO PAULO. Dossiê 50-J-0-5372), sent to ASI-USP, on June 29, 1977, informs about the repercussion of the black fortnight in the press (50 news items) and about O "First Congress of Black Culture of the Americas”, scheduled to take place between August 24th and 28th of that same year, in Cali, Colombia. The report on the congress indicates that Brazilian representation would be coordinated by the Brazilian Institute of African Studies (IBEA), directed by Clóvis Moura.

At the Dakar congress in 1974, Moura met Manuel Zapata, who was organizing the Cali congress (SILVA, 2021). Invited to be the coordinator of the Brazilian representation, Moura sent letters to directors of several institutes that could make up the delegation. One of the letters was sent to Fernando Mourão, director of the Center for African Studies (CEA), at USP. In a note at the end of the report on the Cali congress, the addition suggests: “the matter could be controlled by the MEC in the area of ​​deposit exemption” (SÃO PAULO. Dossier 50-J-0-5372).

During this period, Brazil required a compulsory deposit for trips abroad. A few days before the congress, the MEC vetoed the deposit exemption (SILVA, 2021). In addition to Clóvis Moura himself, almost the entire Brazilian delegation missed the congress. The only ones who traveled to Cali were: journalist Mirna Grzich, financed by the magazine VISION, the historian Marina Sena, financed by the government of Minas Gerais and Eduardo de Oliveira, who made use of a personal bank loan and a grant from the Ford Foundation (I CONGRESSO, 1977; CONTRA O RACISMO, 1977).

The panel indicates that Eduardo de Oliveira would be seeking the direction of the House of Afro-Brazilian Culture. This is misleading information. The black movement had homonymous militants, which is why the sociologist added another Oliveira to his name (BARONETTI, 2021a). The person seeking to direct the House of Afro-Brazilian Culture was the poet Eduardo de Oliveira.

Another mistake concerns the secretary of culture. The panel seems to assume that José Mindlin, a friend of Eduardo de Oliveira, was still the secretary in 1977. However, Mindlin resigned from the position on February 11, 1976 (EGÍDIO E MINDLIN, 1976). His relationship with the governor had been difficult since journalist Vladimir Herzog, hired by Mindlin to work at TV Cultura, was tortured and murdered on the premises of DOI-CODI/SP, on October 25, 1975 (COMISSÃO MUNICIPAL DA TRUTH VLADIMIR HERZOG, 2015).  

The life and career of Eduardo de Oliveira and many other people of his generation were marked by academic and political persecution and repression by the civil and military police. A text by Florestan Fernandes (1977) about the consequences of the business-military dictatorship at the university is titled: “The lost generation”. In a statement about the influence of Beatriz Nascimento and Eduardo de Oliveira on the projects and utopias of the MNU, the activist and researcher of the black movement Henrique Cunha Júnior laments: “the difficulties increased as the academic positions of Beatriz and Eduardo had subtle and traumatic rejection, implying their withdrawal from postgraduate studies” (2002, p. 22).

In December 1980, Eduardo de Oliveira e Oliveira committed suicide.[xxxviii] According to the testimony of his friend Bárbara Marruecos: “in the last months of 1980, the sociologist began to suffer from something like persecution mania or panic syndrome, for unknown reasons” (TRAPP, 2015, p. 5).

In a text published in the first issue of the magazine New Cebrap Studies, teacher and friend Gilda de Melo e Souza pays tribute to him: “What he was trying to communicate when he discreetly closed himself off to die, without the company of a friend, but protected from insults, in the small and welcoming space that he knew how to create ? This death of those who finally laid down their weapons was not a defeat. We must take it as the last gesture of an exhausted fighter, as the final appeal for us to try to look at reality as he had always done: head-on and without fear” (1981, p. 69).

Final considerations

The work of the Truth Commissions is fundamental to understanding the recent history of this country. The opening of the archives and basements of the last business-military dictatorship also contributed to the recognition of each person's role in this historical process. We need to learn to rework this dark past that left deep marks on people and institutions.

One of the documents present in the DEOPS archives is a copy of a letter from Ruy Coelho, head of the Department of Social Sciences, to Erwin Rosenthal, director of the Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences at USP (SÃO PAULO. Dossier 50-K- 104-3107). Sent on December 7, 1978, the letter expresses the decision of the Congregation of the Department of Social Sciences to ask the Magnificent Rector to rehire the teachers: Florestan Fernandes, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Octavio Ianni and Paula Beiguelman, removed from their positions at USP after o Complementary Act nº 5, of December 10, 1965. Documents like this help us understand the history of the university and the country.

At universities, it would be important to create Truth Commissions to investigate documents from each faculty and department. It would also be important that as many relevant documents as possible are accessible to all researchers. If possible, microfilmed or digitized and available on the websites of universities and human rights institutes.

* Paulo Fernandes Silveira Professor at the Faculty of Education at USP and researcher at the Human Rights Group at the Institute for Advanced Studies at USP.


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[I] The reproduction of this image follows the guidelines of the Public Archives of the State of São Paulo. I am grateful for the cordiality of the archivists and the support of technical director Ricardo Santos.

[ii] The DEOPS documents that are part of the São Paulo State Archive collection were not digitized, but were microfilmed. Identical copies of the panel “O Negro no Brasil” are found in two folders or rolls of microfilm, with the code: 50-K-104-3115, on roll 10.03.916, with the code: 50-J-0, without the final number, on roll 10.01.858.

[iii] Document 50-K-104-3113 is an addition to the panel “O Negro no Brasil”, effectively, it was sent to ASI-USP without the name of the author or any indication about his relationship with the University of São Paulo. Document 50-K-104-3115, sent by Mourão a week earlier, is found in the same folder or roll of microfilm.

[iv] In addition to not citing the author, indicated on the cover of the document, Kössling omits all the passages in which Mourão explicitly commits himself to the facts reported.

[v] During this period, in addition to the 1977 FESTAC, Mourão presented the communication “Reprise de l'Afrique au Brésil”, in 1974, at the Dakar colloquium “Négritude et Amérique Latine” (MOURÃO, 1978). According to Jean Lacouture, contrary to what young Africans preached in the 30s, in his opening lecture at the colloquium, Léopold Senghor presented a concept of blackness linked to that of miscegenation (1974, p. 25).

[vi] Abdias do Nascimento's participation in the Lagos festival was analyzed by Dávila (2011), Custódio (2011) and Januário (2012). On May 23, 2022, musician and black movement activist Evandro Fióti asked Gilberto Gil, who participated in the festival, about Nascimento's controversial intervention, available at:

[vii] A copy of these telegrams can be found in the Itamaraty archives (DÁVILA, 2011, p 283).

[viii] One of the strategies for approaching African countries was investment in academic and cultural exchanges (KÖSSLING, 2008). Without explaining the relationship with the federal government, Chancellor Silveira praises the work of the Center for Afro-Oriental Studies (CEAO), the Federal University of Bahia and the Center for African Studies (CEA), at the University of São Paulo (SPEKTOR, 2010 ).

[ix] According to Kössling (2007, p. 128), a copy of this editorial from Newspapers in Brazil It is found in the DEOPS archives (Dossier 50-E-29-96).

[X] A xerox with the cover, title page and index of the book racial democracy: ideology and reality, by Thales de Azevedo (1975), can be found in the folder or microfilm roll of the panel “O Negro no Brasil”, code: 50-K-104-3112. In this book, Azevedo makes a series of criticisms of the myth of racial democracy. In the 80s, the author returned to the conservative perspective that marked much of his work (GUIMARÃES, 2021).

[xi] In the same line of reflection, Guimarães states: “During the years of military dictatorship, between 1968 and 1978, 'racial democracy' became a dogma, a kind of ideology of the Brazilian State. Now, the reduction of anti-racism to anti-racialism, and its use to deny the facts of discrimination and racial inequalities, growing in the country, ended up forming a racist ideology, that is, a justification of the discriminatory order and racial inequalities that actually exist” ( 2006, p. 269).

[xii] In July 1978, this complaint by Nascimento became one of the main inspirations for the creation of the Unified Black Movement (MNU), which took to the streets to protest against violence against the black community (RAMOS, 2021). In contrast, in the same year, the Journal of Anthropology from USP publishes an article by Munanga pointing to the harmony and cordiality in relations between white and black people in Brazil: “The white Brazilian, instead of being brutal or hostile towards his black compatriot, is rather charitable and paternalistic. He takes pity on the black man and treats him with sweetness and tenderness” (1978, p. 151).

[xiii] Copies of the magazines Headline e VISION They are in the collection of the Library of the School of Communications and Arts at USP. I am grateful for the cordiality of the librarians and librarians who contributed to this research.

[xiv] Interestingly, this article by Grzich, published in 1977, has the same title as the editorial in Newspapers in Brazil, published in 1974.

[xv] According to activist Milton Barbosa, journalist Mirna Grzich helped publicize the first demonstration of the Unified Black Movement (MNU), on July 7, 1978 (ALBERTI; PEREIRA, 2007, p. 150).

[xvi] The intellectuals of the North American delegation that participated in the group on “Black Civilization and Historical Consciousness” at the Lagos festival were: Maulana Karenga, Ronald Walters, Harold Cruse, John Clarke and Molefi Asante (CUSTÓDIO, 2011).

[xvii] In early 1977, alongside Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Mário Vargas Llosa and other intellectuals from Latin America, Skidmore served on the board of the Wilson Center's Latin American Program (LOWENTHAL, 1982).  

[xviii] A copy of this book by Diégues Júnior is in the collection of the Institute of Brazilian Studies (IEB) at USP. I appreciate the cordiality of the librarians. The issue of color has a long history of interference by state political propaganda in Brazilian census research (CAMARGO, 2008). As a sociologist, Diégues Júnior was one of the referees invited to evaluate the relevance of the question in the 1970 census (SENRA, 2008). His opinion was against the exclusion of the color issue. 

[xx] On June 8, 1980, the Folhetim section, from Folha de S. Paul, organized a debate with intellectuals and activists from the Unified Black Movement (MNU) on racial democracy (ALBUQUERQUE, 1980). The publication of the debate was preceded by the article “The myth revealed”, by Florestan Fernandes (FERNANDES, 1980b). In this text, Fernandes returns to the concept of “revolutionary potential”, analyzed by his former student and interlocutor Eduardo de Oliveira. As activists Regina Alves and Weber Lopes attest, this concept was fundamental for the organization of the Brazilian black movement (CUSTÓDIO, 2017; LOPES, 2017).

[xx] Some of these MNU activists were part of the socialist organization Liga Operária and, later, of Convergência Socialista (CUSTÓDIO, 2017).

[xxx] In the 70s, university students from other states participated in the creation of the MNU, such as Lélia Gonzalez and Maria Beatriz Nascimento. Even in São Paulo, other high school and university students participated in the creation of the MNU, in addition to USP employees. We lack detailed research on this topic. In 1972, the Working Group of Black Liberal and University Professionals (GTPLUN) emerged, also emphasizing the participation of black women and university students (DOMINGUES, 2020). Antonio Leite, one of the main leaders of GTPLUN, participated in the creation of the MNU (BARONETTI, 2021a).

[xxiii] In the “No Black Panthers” item in your book Neither black nor white, Degler (1976) uses these analyzes by Fernandes on the Brazilian black movement of the 30s and 40s to establish an opposition with the North American black movement of the 60s and 70s. In a text about Gilberto Freyre, Mourão (1976) contrasts the Brazilian multiracial society to the segregationist positions of the North American “black power”.  

[xxiii] In an interview with activist Hamilton Cardoso, the sociologist once again highlights the importance of counter-violence as a form of resistance (FERNANDES, 1980a). In 1988, in the printed edition of the magazine Theory and debate, Fernandes (1988) shares space with Cardoso to deal with the history of the black movement in Brazil.

[xxv] The first part of this interview was published in the newspaper In time, Year III, n. 111, p. 27. Available at: In 1985, CULTNE cameramen and researchers recorded a meeting between FNB and MNU activists. Available in:

[xxiv] Among the MNU activists who came from Casa Verde was Hamilton Cardoso (CARRANÇA; OLIVEIRA, 2020). One of MNU's leaders, professor and researcher Henrique Cunha Júnior, is the son of one of FNB's great leaders, journalist Henrique Antunes Cunha. 

[xxv] One of the people who was present in the history of the first phase of the ACN, led by FNB leaders, and the second phase, led by MNU leaders, was Florestan Fernandes (SILVA, 2012b).

[xxviii] Being from a family linked to samba schools, Rafael Pinto managed to convince Inocêncio Tobias, president of Camisa Verde e Branco, to make the school space available for tutoring courses (BARONETTI, 2021b).

[xxviii] The young student was delighted to know that in that African country black men and women could be architects or engineers, they could be whatever they wanted. Zimbabwe has become one of the most important black dance teams in São Paulo. It was through this label that Racionais recorded their first songs, as explained by William Santiago himself, available at:

[xxix] Fantástico’s report on the relationship between black dances and samba was shown on April 24, 1977, available at:

[xxx] The works of Peter Fry (1982) and Hermano Vianna (1987) bring important reflections on the political and cultural role of black balls.

[xxxii] Black dances suffered strong police repression during the last business-military dictatorship (COMISSÃO DA TRUTH DO ESTADO DE SÃO PAULO “RUBENS PAIVA”, 2015; PEDRETTI, 2022).

[xxxi] At that time, Unidos do Peruche's court was located at Rua Adelaide nº 249, currently Rua Lavínio Salles Arcuri, in Casa Verde Alta. According to Carlão do Peruche, the order to invade the school came from DEOPS (BARONETTI, 2021a). In addition to breaking the school facilities and musical instruments, the police injured many people with gunshots and batons. Seu Carlão still has a bruise in his ribs to this day.

[xxxii] The documentary “O Negro da senzala ao soul” was shown on TV Cultura on July 15, 1977, available at:

[xxxv] Transcription of the K-7 tape with the recording of the round table, located in the collection of the Center for African Studies (CEA) at USP (TRAPP, 2018, p. 174, note 531).

[xxxiv] In the days following the announcement of the government's veto on resources for holding the SBPC, the ministry of education prohibited a national meeting of students (PASSEATA EM BRASÍLIA, 1977).

[xxxiv] In addition to pointing to a negative perspective in Juana Elbein's work, one of the additions to the panel prepared by Mourão informs the anthropologist's address (SÃO PAULO. Dossiê 50-J-0-5361). In the text presented at the black fortnight at USP, Juana Santos maintains that the cultural segment that holds political and institutional power imposed the ambiguous ideology of racial democracy in Brazil (1979).

[xxxviii] A few years later, Florestan Fernandes also attempted suicide. The journalist and activist of the black movement Hamilton Cardoso committed suicide in 1999. During the hospital stay caused by the suicide attempt, Fernandes contracted hepatitis C and developed liver cirrhosis that would kill him in 1995. It is likely that none of these decisions are directly related to political persecution. However, that was a terrible period for artists and intellectuals: “After stifling and repressing for more than four centuries any flowering of critical and creative intelligence, conservative thought had managed to sweep the terrain and impose, we don't know for how long, its standard mortified by intellectual surrender and moral cowardice” (FERNANDES, 1977, p. 214).

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