Breaking

Lady in a litter being carried by her slaves, Brazil, 1860


These two men are Manusmriti Das. Manumission is the act of a slave owner freeing his slaves. He just borrowed clothes and hats for the picture. This is a drawn-out picture and a statement about estrangement rather than a picture of a woman with her slaves.

To answer the question of why they are dressed but bold - this is part of the old custom of using shoes to denote class, status or wealth. It was highly customary that slaves were kept barefoot. Some countries have even said that slaves always live without shoes.

The motives of slave owners in enslaving slaves were complex and varied. First, manumission can present itself as a sentimental and benevolent gesture.

A typical scenario was for a dedicated servant to be released from the master's will after long years of service. This type of manusmriti was generally confined to slaves, who maintained some degree of closeness with their masters, such as those serving as personal attendants, domestic servants, secretaries, and the like.

In some cases, there was a prolonged sexual relationship between the master and the slave. The owners sometimes freed the woman and children born from such relationships.

Excerpted from: "Slavery and Identity: Ethnicity, Gender and Race in Salvador, Brazil, 1808–1888" by Miko Nishida:

Of course, independence didn't change much of the outward appearance of ex-slaves of African descent; They could not be easily distinguished from their enslaved counterparts, who constituted the majority of the population of African descent. Whether enslaved or free, most were born free in Africa, and their shared cultural otherness set them apart from the Brazilian-born population of African descent. There were only a few clear signs of their newly acquired free status.

First, former slave street workers, who worked in gangs as porters, transporters and artisans, were not chained around their ankles or necks. second, former slaves had the right to wear shoes; British lady Maria Graham describes the shoes as a "mark of freedom" in her travel magazine. Perhaps with their shoes on, slaves of African descent of both sexes continued to work with their coworkers of African origin, both slaves and former slaves, side by side engaged in the same occupation as when they were slaves.

Their jobs could be tarnished by being associated with slavery, and the free-born population did not wish to take them. But it was the unique business skills of the people of African descent that enabled them to earn extra money as slaves and eventually buy their freedom.

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