Although we have spent a good part of our lives studying countless historical personalities, we present a notable difficulty in citing those that were black or holding traces of African descent.
This problem is an explicit consequence of the various actions that took place in much of the world in favor of the whitening ideology, which advocated the realization of a series of attitudes in order to make the population more clear.
In Brazil, this phenomenon happened during the late 19th century. The Brazilian intellectual and political elite feared that the large number of Africans and Afro-descendants in the region would compromise the nation’s future.
In order to prevent this from happening, several black women were raped by white men, in addition to the creation of policies that facilitated the arrival of European labor to Brazil. The main intention was that the number of interracial unions would increase and that they would generate children with greater similarity to European features.
Many of the great names in history who had Afro-descendant physiognomic aspects had these hidden, since, in the understanding of several individuals during multiple moments, it was practically impossible for a black person to be responsible for any outstanding action.
As one of the many sequels of that period, below are five historical personalities who have African descent traits and you probably did not know.
1 – Machado de Assis
The writer Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis was considered by great critics, readers and scholars as one of the greatest names in Brazilian literature. In 2011, Machado de Assis was interpreted as a white man during an advertising campaign by Caixa Econômica Federal.
The advertisement was the target of a considerable number of complaints from the public and received a formal complaint from the Secretariat of Policies for the Promotion of Racial Equality of the Presidency of the Republic (Seppir-PR). Due to the great repercussion that occurred at the time, Caixa withdrew the campaign from circulation.
2 – Alexandre Dumas
Grandson of a marquis and a slave, as well as the son of General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie, Alexandre Dumas was a novelist and also a French playwright responsible for the classics (1844) and (1844).
3 – Cleopatra
Great queen of Egypt born in Macedonia, in Alexandria. He reigned with his brother, Ptolemy XIII Téo Filópator and then married him, which was a very common practice in his dynasty.
Cleopatra was the only person of her lineage to master the Egyptian language, also speaking five more languages. He was a lover of the Roman leader Júlio César and had a strong love involvement with the politician Marcos Antônio.
It is worth noting that Cleopatra’s race and color generates an extensive debate that continues today. Scholars generally identify Cleopatra as essentially of Greek descent with some Persian and Syrian ancestry, based on the fact that her Macedonian Greek family (the Ptolemy dynasty) had mixed with the Seleucid aristocracy of the time.
But one study by researchers at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in 2009, they analyzed the skull and other parts of the skeleton of a woman who, it is estimated, lived about two thousand years ago in Turkey. The studied bone was located in a tomb in Ephesus and was identified as belonging to Arsinoe, sister of Cleopatra. From the conclusions drawn about Arsinoe, the researchers stated that Cleopatra was African – precisely, from North Africa. The study’s coordinator, Austrian scientist Hilke Thuer, described the discovery as “one of the most significant” of recent times. And he added: “Finally we have new information about Cleopatra’s family and their ancestors.”
The study pointed out that the shape and dimensions of Arsinoe’s skull indicate that she possessed physical characteristics of an African – and, if that is her ancestry, by logic it must also be that of her sister, Cleopatra. Finally, the tomb’s anthropological and architectural analyzes convinced experts that Cleopatra really descended from blacks in North Africa. “Everything indicates that she had an elongated face, a characteristic of ancient Africans. Cleopatra had black genes, ”says Thuer.
4 – Nilo Peçanha
He was a federal deputy between the years 1891 and 1902. He became president of the republic after Afonso Pena’s death in 1909, and, during his government, the Indian Protection Service (SPI) was created. Nilo Peçanha was the first dark-skinned man to reach the highest position in the Brazilian executive branch.
5 – Lima Barreto
Afonso Henriques de Lima Barreto was a Brazilian journalist and writer, the son of a typographer and an elementary school teacher. For his color and humble origin, he suffered prejudice throughout his life.
Barreto used to write about some social problems related mainly to color. He was the author of great works such as (1915), (1948) and (1909), which tells the story of a dark-skinned man who seeks to rise professionally, even with the obstacles arising from racial prejudice.