Manuel Raimundo Querino (1851-1923) – The first Afro Brazilian Historian
“Here it was the work of blacks that sustained the nobility and prosperity of Brazil for centuries, without fail; it was as a result of their work that we have scientific institutions, letters, arts, commerce, industry, etc. Therefore, they have played an outstanding role as a factor in Brazilian civilization.”
ln a racial climate that was at best condescending and at worst genocidal toward blacks, Manuel Querino helped pioneer the study of the Afro-Brazilians and their culture.
The importance of his pioneering efforts in the study of Afro-Brazilian culture can only be understood in the perspective of the environment of pseudoscientific racism in which all intellectuals lived in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Brazil.
By recognizing the contributions of Africans and their descendants to Brazil’s national identity and culture, even a Brazilian “race,” Querino displayed phenomenal independence of scholarship and mind. He defied the influence of European pseudoscientific racism in a country whose economy was partially based on racial slavery until 1888. Like most Brazilian intellectuals, Querino was seeking to provide a scientific or historical basis for a founding myth of Brazilian nationality and culture: in searching for the characteristic that gave their country and people their unique identity, he chose the fait accompli and undeniable fact of widespread cultural and biological miscegenation.