Afro-Brazilians make up 76% of population in three states and are the majority in 56.8% of Brazilian cities; racial inequality still persists

Afro Brazilians
Photo: Núcleo de Estudos Afro-Brasileiros (Neab)

Prejudice in relation to skin color is still a reality faced by blacks today. Anthropologist Maria de Lourdes Siqueira, who was born in Codó, a city in the northeastern state of Maranhão that has one of the highest concentration of blacks, reveals that she experienced discrimination in attaining her first job. She is a professor and a post-doctorate in anthropology in Europe and Africa.

Anthropologist Maria de Lourdes Siqueira

“It’s not written on my forehead that I am a professor, a Ph.D of the Federal University. We still have a ways to go so that a black person is treated in Brazilian society on equal terms with a person that we say is white.”

According to the IBGE (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística or Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), Maranhão has 4,540.893 blacks. They represent more than 74% of the state population. The largest concentration is on the west coast, where more than 19% of the population is afrodescendente (African descendant).

Lígia Santos, general coordinator of the Centro de Cultura Negra (CCN or Center for Black Culture) of Maranhão (an organization that works for the appreciation of black culture), also believes there is still much work to do. Among the main problems highlighted by the general coordinator of the CCN is the scarcity of resources for promoting racial equality and combating racism, the death of blacks, especially young people, and the delay in titling of rural black communities. “The realization of the rights of the quilombola (1) issue in the state of Maranhão, is still very slow and is moving like a turtle. We have a regulation of the Federal Constitution, in Article No. 68, but they have not managed to put this article in effect, so that the black population has access to their land. Today, in the state of Maranhão, there are several cases being processed, but no great success in land titling, because most of the agencies that are responsible for this part allege that there are not enough anthropologists. Without the titling of lands, public policies are not enough,” she explains.

According to experts, the problems faced by the black population today are a reflection of the Brazilian colonial slave system, but in recent years, advances have been registered. These advances are due the growth of social movements and public policies focusing on blacks. Besides the estatuto de negro (black statute), or the statute of racial equality (2), the national policy of quotas is one of the main advances over the past few years.

Judge Oriana Gomes

According to the 2010 Census conducted by the IBGE, in a decade, the percentage of people who declared themselves “preta (black)” increased from 6.2% to 7.6%; the largest increase was among those declared who declared themselves “parda (brown)”, from 38.5% to 43.1% over the same period. According to the Statute of Racial Equality, those declaring themselves “preta” or “parda” make up the black or Afro-Brazilian population. The data are part of the study “Mapa da População Preta & Parda no Brasil (Map of the Black & Brown Population)” in Brazil. In 2010, approximately 91 million people classified themselves as “branca (white)”, 15 million “preta”, 82 million as “parda” two million as “amarela (yellow or Asian)” and 817,000 as “indígenas (indigenous)”. According to the IBGE, the state with the highest percentage of blacks in Brazil is Pará, with 76.7% of the population, followed by the states of Bahia (76.2%) and Maranhão (76.2%). Pará is located in northern Brazil while both Maranhão and Bahia are located in the northeast.

Left to right in red: states of Pará, Maranhão and Bahia

The Mapa da População Preta & Parda no Brasil report (which is based on the 2010 census) also found that the number of municipalities or cities where the majority of households were black and brown (according to IBGE classification) increased by 7.6 percentage points between 2000 and 2010, rising from 49.2% to 56.8%.

Report: Mapa da População Preta & Parda no Brasil


In 1,021 cities (18.3% of total), blacks and browns were more than 75% of the population. The study was prepared by the Laboratório de Análises Econômicas, Sociais e Estatísticas das Relações Raciais (Laboratory of Social and Economic Analysis, and Statistics of Race Relations (Laeser), from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ).

Research/economist Marcelo Paixão

Lead researcher Marcelo Paixão, believes that indicators based on the 2010 Census were influenced by the process of the appreciation of the presence of afrodescendentes (African descendants) in Brazilian society and the adoption of affirmative action policies.

“These data demonstrate not only a demographic shift, but also political, social and cultural, because it expresses a new form of visibility of black people by encouraging people to declare their skin color in a more open way.”

The census prepared by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) every ten years, introduced in 2010, the question about color or race for all households, and not more per sample, as was done previously.


According to Paixão, comparing that information with future data from the IBGE, and the Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicílios (National Survey by Household Sampling or PNAD) of next year and the Census of 2020, will be very useful to draw a more accurate profile of the population.

“The interesting thing for 2020 will be to verify if the percentage of black and brown people in Brazil will continue to grow. Because of course it also has a population that is not black. Ideally, the database best expresses the profile of the Brazilian population, which corresponds to the reality,” said the economist.
According to the 2010 survey, São Paulo is the city with the highest number of black and brown people in the country, with about 4.2 million, followed by Rio de Janeiro (about 3 million) and Salvador (about 2,7 million). If we consider only “pretos”, Salvador leads the ranking with 743,700, followed by São Paulo (736,000) and Rio (724 thousand).
In the North and Northeast, respectively, 97.1% and 96.1% of the municipalities were formed by black and brown majorities. In the Midwest, this percentage reached 75.5%, in the Southeast, 37.1% and in the South, only 2.3%. Cunhataí in the southern state of Santa Catarina, is the only Brazilian city without the presence of people who declared themselves “preta”.


1. Quilombola is the term used for people who live on quilombos, the runaway slave maroon societies constructed in Brazil during the era of slavery. Today, there are more than 2,000 quilombos that exist in the Brazilian territory.

2. The Estatuto da Igualdade Racial (Statute of Racial Equality) was a law passed in 2009 with special guidelines specifically aimed to bring about racial equality in Brazil in areas such as health, education, sports, jobs, land and religious freedom.

Source: UOL NotíciasG1 (1)G1 (2)

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


  1. Dont believe in brazilian census, Ima brazilian myself from salvador bahia, here you find a black person every block, also when people here go to take Identity card, the person ask if they are black, white or the shitty term “pardo”, I said I’m black, the woman refused to consider myself black, but i am black, my father and mom is black, but my skin is lighter but its is normal I see anglan people with the same color pattern as me, that son of a bitch classified me pardo”, waht asshole, I refused to take the shitty ID card, so sorry for my english i hope you understand the weird method of census here, DONT BELIEVE BRAZILIAN CENSUS

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