Confederate Memory With a Portuguese Accent

I don’t know much about the few white Southerners who left the country following the war owing to the widespread physical destruction, military occupation as well as the consequences of emancipation.  Here is at least one title that looks worthwhile.  Actually, the more I watched the more I thought of this story as a reflection of Brazilian memory rather than what we would assume to be a Civil War/Confederate memory.  These scenes seem to have all of the trappings of our popular memory of the war as seen in Gone With the Wind and your standard reenactment rather than anything having to do specifically with the men and women who chose to leave the United States.  At one point one of the interviewees suggests that his ancestors would be pleased to learn that they continue to keep the memory of the Confederacy alive.  Perhaps, but the fact that they chose to leave suggests that they were trying not only to distance themselves physically from their homes, buy psychologically as well.  I get the sense that remembrance of their Confederate past is a once a year event.  Just a thought.

Additional videos can be found here and here.

11 responses... add one

Well, that was the successful colony. There were others that didn't do so well, especially in Central America. I've met some of the descendants. Really interesting group of people, and not the same version of “memory” that we find in the States.

Kevin,

I’ve never blogged on your site but check it regularly because it is tremendously insightful and gives me a lot of great ideas in teaching my own Civil War class. I’m writing, however, about your recent post on Confederates in Brazil. Amazingly, just yesterday I met with a student on our campus who is from Americana, Brazil. She knew I was teaching my Civil War course this spring, so while she was home over break she went and took pictures of the town and the Confederate sites shown in the video. She is the descendant of one of the 2000 or so who stayed behind (the rest of the family returned to the US). Interestingly, when I asked why her ancestors came to Brazil, she said they came in large part because they owned slaves and slavery did not end in Brazil until the late 1880s. So, by fleeing to Brazil they escaped the emancipation wave in the US and got to keep their slave property for another 20 or so years. She also said Brazil was very welcoming to American immigrants, especially wealthy ones, and the Confederates (and their slaves) who remained in Americana turned a very poor, remote backwater into a thriving agricultural and manufacturing area. I have not read much on this aspect of the Confederate exodus to Latin America, but I will now. If you have any particular questions, I would be happy to ask her and then post the answers.

So nice to know that you are reading and thanks for the kind words. I would like to know how serious the descendants are about their Confederate heritage. Is this a once-a-year event or do they engage in practices throughout the year that work to reinforce the connection to their Confederate past. I was also interested to hear that at least one person acknowledges the role of slavery in their decisions to leave. The videos fail to touch on this at all. Is this a widespread sentiment among members of this community? Thanks again for the comment.

Local Elizabeth City NC author Bettie Freshwater Poole wrote a romantic fictional novella entitled “Under Brazillian Skies.” She had one other collection of stories written in the Joel Chandler Harris black dialect format (and I should add atrocious black dialect format) – The Eyrie, and other tales. Good grief, is see on ABEbooks that the Under Brazillian Skies is now available in reprint. I am not recommending it – but merely tossing it out there as some bad writing associated with the topic. Even badly written “memory” is nonetheless memory.

Perhaps they were trying to remove themselves from their homes in the state they were in post-65. But I see Confederadoes trying to return “home” in a way — fleeing to Brazil and the psychological comforts of an intact slave society.

Looks like Emperor Dom Pedro II wanted these guys in Brazil for their technical knowledge and abilities to manage large farms. Wonder if they would have come if they knew the Emperors thoughts on slavery. He is a very interesting guy.

Join the Conversation