Cover of The Sacred Cause by Jeffrey D. Needell
The Sacred Cause
The Abolitionist Movement, Afro-Brazilian Mobilization, and Imperial Politics in Rio de Janeiro
Jeffrey D. Needell

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January 2020
440 pages.
$75.00

Cloth ISBN: 9781503609020

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For centuries, slaveholding was a commonplace in Brazil among both whites and people of color. Abolition was only achieved in 1888, in an unprecedented, turbulent political process. How was the Abolitionist movement (1879-1888) able to bring an end to a form of labor that was traditionally perceived as both indispensable and entirely legitimate? How were the slaveholders who dominated Brazil's constitutional monarchy compelled to agree to it?

To answer these questions, we must understand the elite political world that abolitionism challenged and changed—and how the Abolitionist movement evolved in turn. The Sacred Cause analyzes the relations between the movement, its Afro-Brazilian following, and the evolving response of the parliamentary regime in Rio de Janeiro. Jeffrey Needell highlights the significance of racial identity and solidarity to the Abolitionist movement, showing how Afro-Brazilian leadership, organization, and popular mobilization were critical to the movement's identity, nature, and impact.

About the author

Jeffrey D. Needell is Professor of History and Latin American Studies at the University of Florida. He is the author of A Tropical Belle Epoque: Elite Culture and Society in Turn-of-the-Century Rio de Janeiro (1987) and The Party of Order: The Conservatives, the State, and Slavery in the Brazilian Monarchy, 1831-1871 (2006), and is the editor of Emergent Brazil: Key Perspectives on a New Global Power (2015).