Little Bits of History

Revolting

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 21, 2012

Revolt of the Lash

November 21, 1910: The Revolt of the Lash takes place. The Brazilian Navy had recentrly acquired a new battleship, Minas Geraes. The ship arrived four years after it was commissioned. It was expensive, costing a reported $8,863,842 and built in England. Soon after the ship arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the country was hit by an economic depression. Secondary to the economy, racism was prevalent within all the armed forces. However, the Brazilian naval discipline was even more egregious. The sailors revolted against the constant use of the lash.

Many of the black sailors aboard the Minas Geraes were freed slaves. They were forced to enter the Navy and there faced horrific discrimination. As part of their “freedom,” they were forced to serve in the Navy for 15 years. Since they could not escape, officers often directed “racial abuse and physical violence” against the not-quite-free men. Even minor offenses could be punished using “leather whips tipped with metal balls”. As even more indignities were heaped upon them, an experienced sailor, Joäo Cândido Felisberto became their leader. He was affectionately known as the “Black Admiral”.

The practice of lashing the sailors was banned by law, but regardless of the fact, in mid-November a sailor was whipped 250 times in front of his peers. The punishment continued even after the man fainted. This stirred the men to even more fury and on the night of November 21-22, they rebelled. During the mutiny which burst forth earlier than planned, several officers (including the captain) were killed. Other officers were forced off the ship. British engineers still aboard were held as hostages.

The revolt soon spread to other Brazilian ships, however torpedo boat crews remained loyal to the government. Armies along the coast were also loyal, but even combined, they could not take back the ships. The rebels were asking for a cessation of flogging, improved living conditions, and amnesty for all mutineers. The rebellion ended on November 26 but the men were not granted the amnesty promised. On November 28, the Navy was given permission to expel malcontents. Many of the men were jailed and tortured and Felisberto was held at the Hospital for the Insane. The men were finally granted pardon on July 24, 2008. Today, a statue of Felisberto overlooks the Ilha Das Cobras in Rio.

I’m interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos, especially activity that appears to have no meaning. It seems to me to be the road toward freedom. – Jim Morrison

Inferiors revolt in order that they may be equal, and equals that they may be superior. Such is the state of mind which creates revolutions. – Aristotle

To revolt is a natural tendency of life. Even a worm turns against the foot that crushes it. In general, the vitality and relative dignity of an animal can be measured by the intensity of its instinct to revolt. – Mikhail Bakunin

Why do people in ship mutinies always ask for “better treatment”? I’d ask for a pinball machine, because with all that rocking back and forth you’d probably be able to get a lot of free games. – Jack Handy

Also on this day:

Missing Link – In 1953, the Piltdown Man was declared a hoax.
North, to Alaska – In 1942, the Alaskan Highway’s completion was celebrated.
Senator Rebecca – In 1922, the first female US Senator took her seat.