The Sailor Who Sparked a Revolution and Fought Against Injustice

Last Updated: June 21, 2024By

The Sailor Who Sparked a Revolution and Fought Against Injustice


Alright, let’s dive into the incredible story of João Cândido Felisberto, a Black Brazilian sailor who led an unforgettable mutiny in 1910. His brave actions helped end brutal punishments in Brazil’s navy. But sadly, his life didn’t have a happy ending. He faced imprisonment, persecution, and died in poverty.

The Revolt of the Lash

Picture this: for five intense days in 1910, João Cândido and his fellow sailors took control of Rio de Janeiro with the mighty guns of the Brazilian fleet. This bold uprising is known as the Revolt of the Lash. Imagine holding a whole city hostage to make a stand against unfair treatment!


Sailors United

Thousands of Black sailors, some of whom had soaked up radical ideas while training in Newcastle upon Tyne, joined the mutiny. Can you believe it was only 22 years after Brazil ended slavery? These sailors were determined to stop the abuse they faced every day.

Success and Swift Punishment

Their main goal? To end the cruel corporal punishments. And guess what? They did it! But their victory didn’t last long. The uprising was quickly crushed, and hundreds of sailors, including Cândido, were thrown into prison. Imagine achieving something so significant only to face such harsh consequences.


The Aftermath for Cândido

Cândido, once honored as the Black Admiral, faced a tough life after the mutiny. He was jailed, kicked out of the navy, and blacklisted from getting any decent job. He ended up working as a dock worker, barely scraping by.

A Call for Justice

But here’s a twist – there’s a new effort to get Cândido some posthumous justice. Julio Araujo, a federal prosecutor in Rio, is pushing for the government to make amends for how Cândido was treated. Araujo wants Cândido’s descendants to receive financial compensation too. It’s about time, right?


Cândido’s Early Life

Cândido was born in 1880 to enslaved parents. At 15, he joined the Brazilian navy, traveling to ports all over South America and Europe. Back then, the navy was segregated, with Black or mixed-race sailors doing the hard work and white officers dishing out harsh punishments. Just think about it – minor mistakes could get you whipped with sticks or ropes.

Radical Ideas from Across the Sea

When Brazilian sailors trained in Newcastle, they picked up some radical ideas from English sailors. Ideas about strikes and workers’ rights started brewing among them. By the time they returned to Brazil in 1910 with new battleships, they were ready to make a stand.


The Spark of Rebellion

The final straw came on November 21, 1910, when a sailor was given a brutal 350 lashes in front of the crew. The next night, the mutiny began. They seized the battleships and, in the chaos, some officers and sailors lost their lives. They even fired warning shots, one of which tragically killed two children.

Victory and Betrayal

The mutineers demanded the end of corporal punishment and aimed their guns at the president’s office. On November 26, the president promised to ban the punishments and grant amnesty to the mutineers. But just three days later, the navy was authorized to dismiss anyone who resisted discipline.


A New Uprising and More Arrests

A month later, another uprising erupted but was quickly squashed. João Cândido didn’t take part but was still branded a leader and spent two years in jail. Despite never being convicted, he faced relentless persecution for the rest of his life. He died in 1969, aged 89, after years of hardship.

The Fight for Recognition

In his petition, Araujo accused the navy of endlessly persecuting Cândido. He’s also calling for João Cândido to be recognized as a Hero of the Nation. But the bill is stuck in the lower house, reportedly because of resistance from the navy.

A Legacy of Change

Thiago André, who left the navy to host the Black history podcast História Preta, says that while some things have changed since Cândido’s revolt, many inequalities remain. And these issues aren’t just in the navy – they’re everywhere in Brazil. As André puts it, “When someone says the navy is very racist, I reply, ‘This is Brazil. Brazil is very racist.'”

Isn’t it amazing how one man’s bravery can spark such significant change, even if his own life was filled with struggle? João Cândido’s story is a powerful reminder of the fight against injustice and the importance of standing up for what’s right.

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