Why is the work of black intellectuals ignored in Brazilian universities? Halls of higher learning are yet another example of whitewashing

From top left, clockwise, Clóvis Moura, Abdias Nascimento, Lélia Gonzalez and Beatriz Nascimento
From top left, clockwise, Clóvis Moura, Abdias Nascimento, Lélia Gonzalez and Beatriz Nascimento

Note from BW of Brazil: This should actually come as no surprise. As we have consistently documented here on this blog, Afro-Brazilians have been made almost completely invisible in numerous areas of Brazilian society. With the forces of white supremacy completely dominating important genres of the nation such as media, politics, and literature, among countless other areas, it would only make sense that black Brazilians were also excluded from bibliographies and topics of discussion in halls of higher learning.

Considering the fact that black Brazilians have only in the past decade been able to enter Brazilian universities in substantial numbers it would only be logical that a whole other battle would be the demand of having access to works by black scholars, both Brazilian and classics from the African Diaspora. As Portuguese is still not considered a language of international importance in the same manner as English, Spanish, French or German, the task is even more daunting when there is a need to explore the works of important black professors and researchers who wrote and had their works translated into these languages. 

malcolm fanon

I can attest to the profound influence that works by internationally recognized black scholars and activists such as Frantz Fanon and Malcolm X have had on the lives of Afro-Brazilians. Some black Brazilians, with even a limited understanding of English, manage to get through these important works and other times they manage to get their hands on an old, out-of-print copy of these works that had been translated into Portuguese. I remember a few years back the buzz in the community when a brand new version of Frantz Fanon’s classic Black Skin, White Masks was re-issued in Portuguese under the title Pele negra, máscaras brancas.


Also popular in Afro-Brazilian intellectual circles a few years back and still today is the Portuguese version of the UNESCO’s General History of Africa. The release of such works represents only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the necessity of filling the gap of black intellectual production not just at the university level, but general education. A void that was supposed to be filled with the implementation of Law 10.639/2003 back in 2003. With such invisibility on so many levels of society, is it any wonder why such a large percentage of African descendants don’t recognize themselves as black? If one is invisible in history, invisible in the media but over-represented in the slums and jails, how would this affect one’s perception of self? Again, Brazil must pat itself on the back: its particular brand of racism is perhaps the successful in the world!

Black intellectuals are outside of the bibliography, experts criticize

By Mariana Tokarnia

Abdias Nascimento, Clóvis Moura, Lélia Gonzalez, Beatriz Nascimento, Jurema Werneck and Sueli Carneiro are just a few names of the long list of black Brazilian intellectuals. It is not uncommon, however, that a student leaves higher education without knowing and without having read any of these thinkers. For researchers, in academia and general education there is a lack of  wider knowledge of the black intelligentsia, not only Brazilian. It is also necessary to have access to translated works of black thinkers.

'O Negro Revoltado' by Abdias do Nascimento, 'Lugar de Negro' by Lélia Gonzalez and Carlos Hasenbalg, the documentary 'Ôrí', written, created and narrated by Beatriz Nascimento with direction by Raquel Gerber, 'Rebeliões da Senzala' by Clóvis Moura
‘O Negro Revoltado’ by Abdias do Nascimento, ‘Lugar de Negro’ by Lélia Gonzalez and Carlos Hasenbalg, the documentary ‘Ôrí’, written, created and narrated by Beatriz Nascimento with direction by Raquel Gerber, ‘Rebeliões da Senzala’ by Clóvis Moura

The search for black leadership was what motivated the research of History professor Carlos Machado. In the book Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação Africana e Afrodescendente (African and Afro-descendant Science, Technology and Innovation), he compiled some stories and legacies of black researchers for humanity. He explains that these people are responsible for inventions that are part of our daily lives. “But Eurocentrism hid or deleted this history as if it didn’t exist and then this information, a portion of it, remain as if it were a European legacy,” he said.

'Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação Africana e Afrodescendente' by Carlos Machado
‘Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação Africana e Afrodescendente’ by Carlos Machado

According to him, mathematics originated in Africa, as well as astronomy and the university. “For years I had heard that the first universities in the world had been built in Europe, such as the University of Bologna in the 11th century, but there are reports of universities, study centers in Africa since the 30th century BC,” he says. “We have several African influences in our daily lives, metallurgy, sealing, philosophy, engineering, architecture, urbanism, the black presence is beyond music and culture, the black presence is in many fields and it needs to be redeemed beyond the 21st century.”

The research, however, was not easy. Machado tells us that in 1995, when he sought black researchers, “black scientist appeared as a work of science fiction and not as something real.” According to him, the erasure of black leadership dates from the process of slavery, which began from the 15th century and was intended to dehumanize

'Terms of Inclusion Black Intellectuals in Twentieth-Century Brazil' - Paulina L. Alberto
‘Terms of Inclusion Black Intellectuals in Twentieth-Century Brazil’ – Paulina L. Alberto

whoever was enslaved. “You not only dominated with weapons. You dominated by means of culture and religion. So you had to totally destroy this man. So, he had to fully embrace European culture as if it were the only thing possible. And African culture was seen as a barbaric thing, low, wild.”

The difficulty he encountered in the 90s persists today. According to the lawyer and post-doctorate from the University of Texas Ana Luiza Flauzina this is a challenge that the Brazilian university places for black researchers. “Our issues are viewed with much suspicion,” she says. “Overall, we don’t translate texts of black people from Africa and the Diaspora. The university has not fulfilled this role of also prioritizing the translation of texts, only reissuing European classics. We have little access, in the Portuguese language , to some fundamental classics and I’m not just speaking only of black people, but Indians, from the east. We have so little circulating in global terms, that we end up losing the possibility of exchange,” she says.

With a Master’s in Law Marcos Queiroz studies the impact of the Haitian revolution in constitutional processes in Brazil and Colombia in Independence. “[The black authors] are often times not in literature, depending on how you do the course, one can never read a black author,” he says. “The academy excludes us from the spaces of the theoretical foundation of research.”

“It’s not just being within the university, we want that knowledge change, that we know black authors, that we we read about black authors and not only blacks researching what the university has always researched,” he says. “I think the university reflects one of the darkest aspects of racism. It deletes our trajectories and our knowledge,” says Queiroz.

Source: Agência Brasil

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


  1. #istandwithsaidagrundy It’s a problem in American academia as well. Black professors are getting the short end of the stick because the canon is still dominated by white men.

  2. But this is a critic also for this blog. How come this blog’s background shows only actresses? This is something that never ends to puzzle me. The most pressing issue for blacks is and always has been intellectual recognition. No-one cares for Hitlers views that whites would be superior in sports because blacks have already demonstrated they are in fact better than whites in any sport they decide to try for a while (you can think snow sports are exception, but really, if blacks decide to bother they would be superior in no time). The problem is to be intellectually recognized. Jews suffer a great deal of discrimination but nobody doubts their intellectual capacity. This is different with blacks and the main reason blacks are the most discriminated race on the planet. Make no mistake, if this is not the main focus, you can forget everything else.

    • Hello and thanks for your comment! I would have to respectfully disagree with your point of this blog’s background being “only actresses”. Of course there are features about actresses, but if you really searched the almost four years of content on this blog you will see a wide variety personalities: there are lawyers, judges, athletes, historians, models, writers, activists, doctors, a number of Brazilian “first black women” posts and many other features.

      In terms of the whole blacks and Jews question, the issue is much deeper than one really realizes. People often ask the question of why Jews have been so successful and blacks are so affected by white supremacy. The fact is, when one compares the power of the Jewish community vs. the black community, there IS NO COMPARISON!!

      • I agree the blog features “lawyers, judges, athletes, historians, models, writers, activists, doctors,”. I was just pointing out that the background picture of the blog shows only actresses. That is all.

        About comparing “the power of the Jewish community vs. the black community” I agree there is no comparison. I was merely pointing out that they have a different fight. Black fight is for intellectual recognition. Personally I would say much more than material gain, but people can of course disagree.

  3. To be clear. In this very post you have beautiful pictures of black intellectuals. Even if you want to make only about women you have it. The women in the background picture of the blog are beautiful but a picture of Lélia Gonzalez or Beatriz Nascimento are way, way more needed…

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