“For sale, for rental and runaways”: Black slaves in 19th century classified ads; a reminder of May 13th, when slavery was abolished in Brazil 127 years ago

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Note from BW of Brazil: As we’ve seen recently, 350 year plus years of the inhumane institution of slavery has had and continues to have a profound effect on the soul of Brazilian society. We see this not only in how Afro-Brazilians, descendants of enslaved Africans, continue to be treated today, the practice of child labor, people working in conditions analogous to slavery (here and here), sexual exploitation of children, and an overall “nostalgic feeling about slavery” the legacy of which can be seen in the working conditions of maids that for were only recently changed with a long-fought battle for the rights of domestic workers. In modern day Brazil, the root of this social inequality based on race or skin color has yet to be completely eradicated as this legacy continues to haunt millions of Brazilians who connection to this history can been in their faces and bodies. The legacy can also be seen in 19th century classified ads announcing the sale, rental or escape of human beings who were for all intents and purposes treated as products. We remember present a few of these ads today, May 13th, on the 127th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Brazil. 

Slaves ads: the classified ads of the era

“O Brasil é um país mestiço, com algumas ilhas negras”

(Brazil is a mestizo country, with some black islands).

  • Glória Moura, in the book Os herdeiros da noite)
Slave for sale. 37 Carmo steet, for sale a slave of the color black, 47 years, gifted with no defects
Slave for sale. 37 Carmo street, for sale a slave of the color black, 47 years, gifted with no defects

Classified ads of escaped, sale and rental of blacks in the 19th century, are considered the beginnings of the current classifieds that are printed in newspapers circulating in the everyday of the Brazilian. Analyzing from an economic perspective, the black was considered a commodity (a good) which his owner did whatever he wished: slave labor could be sold or leased (rented slaves).

By Carlos Roberto Saraiva da Costa Leite for Portal Geledés

Our economy during the colonial and imperial period was based on monoculture latifundium and slave labor, where social status was proportional to the number of slaves that the owner possessed to serve him. The escape or death of a slave represented a financial loss to his/her owner, especially after the Euzébio Queirós Act (1850) which forbade slave trafficking. In view of this ban, domestic trade between provinces intensified, and the cost to buy a slave became even more expensive. In this nefarious market, the slave trade offered the enslaved, with high cost rates, in order to address the lack of manpower that was acquired in “Mãe África” (Mother Africa), for low values ​​or by the simple slave exchange system.

Offer of a reward for
Offer of a reward for “runaway crioulo” (black).

The healthy black, in good physical condition, had a high monetary value, and many enriched themselves practicing this commercial intermediation including the participation often times of ethnic brothers who, after buying their freedom (liberation), made money by participating in the imprisonment and transportation in tumbeiros (ships) of the enslaved to be sold, the example also of other blacks who, playing the role of “capitães do mato”, pursued their “ethnic brothers” when they fled from captivity.

For sale: 22 year old wet nurse
For sale: 22 year old wet nurse for all services. Has two children, 5 and 13 months. Ad includes who to contact and the city of Itajubá

Although being paradoxical the fact that there are newspapers that defended an abolitionist discourse, due to difficulties of an economic nature, they published these ads. In Pelotas (state of Rio Grande do Sul), A Discussão (1881), according to the historian, writer and military man Souza Docca (1884-1945) it was the pioneer newspaper in Brazil in ceasing from running ads in which the figure of the enslaved was present.

The first printed newspaper in Província de São Pedro (RS), the Diário de Porto Alegre, started its circulation on June 1, 1827, ending its activities on June 30, 1828. The journal’s title was a tribute to the capital of the gaúcha (Rio Grande do Sul state) province. Besides the presence of news of political content, the city’s commercial movement and also sonnets, sale, escaped or rentals of the enslaved were constant. Below are some examples of advertisements published in this journal that pioneered the state’s press:

– Venda: Vende-se uma escrava parda, cozinheira, costureira, engomadeira e rapariga. Quem a quiser comprar procure na rua da Igreja nº 25, à direita, na esquina dos Pecados Mortais (trecho da atual Bento Martins).

For sale: For sale a brown slave, cook, seamstress, clothing presser and young girl. Whoever wishes to buy come to the street of Igreja nº 25, on the right on the corner of Pecados Mortais (the current Bento Martins section).

Quem quiser comprar uma molequinha nova (escrava-criança) cozinha o ordinário. Quem pretender comprar dirija-se a rua do Arvoredo a casa nº 13 e ali achará com quem tratar.

– Whoever wishes to buy a young molequinha (slave-child)a regular cook. Those wishing to buy go to Arvoredo street house #13 and there you will find with the one making the offer.

Slave (female). For sale, a mulata of 38 years with a light-skinned three year old son and buy a 10-12 year old little negra. Inquire at 20 Quitanda street

Fuga: – Uma escrava de nome Francisca de nação rebola, idade de 25 anos, estatura ordinária, beiços grossos e um sinal na testa como um círculo de um vintém, fugiu em março. Quem a trouxer dirija-se a rua do Cotovelo n º 70, que ganhará boas alvíssaras.

Escaped: – A slave named Francisca of rebola nation, age 25, average stature, thick lips and a mark on the forehead like the circle of a coin; escaped in March. Who brings her come to the Cotovelo street #70, that will earn good tidings.

Aluguel: – Quem tiver uma ama-de-leite que seja sadia e saiba tratar crianças e queira alugar, anuncie a sua moradia para ser procurado.

Rent: – Whoever has a wet nurse that is healthy and knows how to take care of children and wants to rent, advertise your house to be sought.

The presence of these ads was a feature present in the country’s newspapers, for an extended period, like the Correio Paulistano that on April 15, 1874, published this announcement of three slaves that escaped from a plantation.


Runaway slaves

Fugiram em dias de Março do corrente anno, da fazenda de José Fernando d’Almeida Barros do município de Piracicaba, os escravos: Pantaleão, alto fulo, nariz afilado boa dentadura, bahiano, falla macia 30 annos. Fernando preto, baixo, corpulento, boa dentadura, bahiano 25 annos mais ou menos. Estes escravos foram trazidos a esta província ha pouco tempo pelo sr. Raphael Ascoli; levaram alguma roupa fina e blusa de baeta vermelha, e oferece-se uma boa gratificação a quem os prender e entregar ao seu senhor ou em São Paulo ao sr. José Alves de Sá Rocha.

They escaped in the days of March of the current year, from the plantation of José Fernando d’Almeida Barros in the city of Piracicaba, the slaves: Pantaleão, a tall fulo, thin nose, good teeth, Bahian, soft-spoken, 30 years. Fernando, black, short, burly, good teeth, Bahian 25 years or so. These slaves were brought to this province a short time ago by Mr. Raphael Ascoli; they took some fine clothes and red baize shirt, and offers up a good bonus to whoever catches them and hands them over to their master or in São Paulo to Mr. José Alves de Sá Rocha.

The Industrial Revolution, led by England since the 18th century, brought changes in labor relations and production, although the labor exploitation would remain, giving rise to various movements and strikes of workers (proletariat Movement) who were organizing, as a class, in defense of their rights and better wages. Children and women were exploited by the owners of the factories. The Industrial Revolution resulted in another form of domination and exploitation by the economic elites. With the transformations in the economic field came the working class, being exploited by the boss class that began to fight for better living conditions and social justice.

Taking up the issue of black slavery, when it was in the interest of the British, the English created in 1831, a law prohibiting slave trafficking because the money invested in this infamous market could be used to buy their goods, expanding their market consumption and generating more wealth for the country.

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Brazil was the last country to realize, belatedly, abolition (1888) in the Americas, as well as the last monarchy in the context of independent and Republican countries. The freedom granted by the Lei Áurea (Golden Law) of May 13, 1888, to this enslaved population, occurred without a social inclusion plan for these men who, although they were free from the yoke of slavery, were unprepared to enter a capitalist and competitive society, beyond carrying the stigma of having been enslaved.

Clearly, in this context of exclusion, the survival of the freed was limited to their own citizen spaces called “third class”, characterized by low economic income or total lack of resources, living in complete destitution and social oblivion. We still have to consider the fact that many freedmen chose to keep on with their former masters to staying in the open street without any assistance.

In Porto Alegre, in the imaginary constructed by prejudice, the locations known as territórios negros (black territories), such as Colônia Africana (currently the Rio Branco neighborhood), Ilhota and Areal da Baronesa, were considered “cursed” spaces and frequented only by people of “má fama” (ill repute) as the historian Sandra Pesavento Jatahy (1945-2009) recorded in her book, Uma outra Cidade/O mundo dos excluídos no final do século XIX (Another City/The world of the excluded in the late nineteenth century), published in 2001 by Companhia Editora Nacional.

The society offered freedom, but not the passport of citizenship that establishes itself through the bias of social inclusion. Unfortunately, we feel the nefarious legacy of these colonial and exclusionary politics to this day. Racism, in its various manifestations, constitutes a social cancer that must be excised in order to build a more just and fraternal society. The road is long and punctuated by numerous challenges, but we cannot give on this conquest.


BAKOS, Margaret Marchiori. RS: escravismo e abolição. Porto Alegre: Editora Mercado Aberto, 1982.

CAMPOS, Raymundo. História do Brasil. São Paulo: Atual Editora. 1997.

FLORES, Moacyr (Org). Cultura Afro-brasileira. Cultura Afro-brasileira. Porto Alegre: Escola Superior de Teologia São Lourenço de Brindes, 1980.

KÜHN, Fábio. Breve histórico do Rio Grande do Sul. Porto Alegre: Leitura XXI, 2007.

MIRANDA, Marcia Eckert; LEITE, Carlos Roberto Saraiva da Costa. Jornais raros do Musecom: 1808-1924. Porto Alegre: Comunicação Impressa, 2008.

MONTI, Verônica A. Martini. O Abolicionismo. Porto Alegre: Martins Livreiro, 1985.

MOURA, Clovis. Rebeliões da Senzala. Porto Alegre: Mercado Aberto,1988.

PESAVENTO. Sandra Jatahy. De escravo a liberto um difícil caminho. Porto Alegre: CODEC / Instituto Estadual do Livro (IEL), 1988.

QUEVEDO, Júlio e ORDOÑEZ Marlene. A Escravidão no Brasil / Trabalho e Resistência. São Paulo: FTD, 1999.

SANTOS, Irene (Org.) Negro em Preto e Branco: história fotográfica da população negra de Porto Alegre. Porto Alegre: Do Autor, 2005.

VILASBOAS, Ilma Silva; BITTENCOURT JUNIOR, Losvaldyr Carvalho; SOUZA; Vinícius Vieira de. Museu de Percurso do Negro. Prefeitura Municipal. Porto Alegre: Ed. Grafiserv, 2010.

SourcePortal Geledés

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


  1. This definitely helps to contextualize the situation that we can observe today, in which the only way out of absolute poverty for so many people is to basically sign their lives over to a rich person. I was also very suprised to see that SO many apartments still basically have slaves’ quarters, and that many of the “service” people still adhere to that unwritten rule that they should not ride in the same elevator as the tenants of an apartment building.

    What is even more fascinating is the almost COMPLETE blindness of white people to the racism that exists here. It goes beyond the defensive “I didn’t do it” ignorance that can be observed in the USA. They seem completely unable to even BEGIN to think about how racism truly looks! They honestly believe that 1) no one in Brazil really knows who is Black and who is not, and that 2) poor Blacks and poor Whites are basically all the same – that the issue is only class based and has NOTHING to do with race. I have been told so many times that “negao/negona”/ “neginho/neginha” are sweet nicknames that you call someone that you love! WOW! What is even more interesting is that they never even wonder WHY they call the people they love or are sexually attracted to names that one would use to refer to a Black person.

    I can tell that I will be obsessed with this topic for a couple of weeks…

  2. Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    May 14, 2015

    Something I have not yet seen many discussions is how families who have ancestors in both sides of the slavery system feel. Searching through my family I know my fourth grandmother was a slave and had a really hard life (my grandmother told me the stories). Ironically, during more or less the same period, I discovered one of my fourth grandfathers was a slave owner and I found a diary with absolutely awful things (like detailed explanations on how he sometimes punished his slaves by making them sit naked on ant colonies).

    And the more irony in all of this is that my father suffered a great deal of racism throughout his life. But he also benefited of being ancestor of rich Portuguese people in one side of his family as they had a reasonably conformable life.

    I have very mixed feelings on how we are supposed to be “compensated” given this history (e.g., if my father was young today, he would most likely qualify for affirmative action if looks were the judging factor).


    This was written on May 14. I thought you didn’t post because the part of what I found about my white ancestor a´was too strong/repulsive (it is, but still history).

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