Colonial Brazil developed the largest slave population in the world, substantially larger than that of the United States. The Portuguese who settled Brazil needed labor to work the large estates and mines in their new Brazilian colony. They turned to slavery which became central to the colonial economy. It was particularly important in the mining and sugar cane sectors. Slavery was also the mainstay in the Caribbean islands with economies centered on sugar. Estimates suggest that about 35 percent of captured Africans involved in the Atlantic slave trade were transported to Brazil. Estimates suggest that more than 3 million Africans reached Brazil, although precise numbers do not exist. Slavery was widely practiced. Brazilians of all classes owned slaves. Slaves were not only owned by upper and middle-class Brazilians, but also by lower-class Brazilians. There were even slaves who owned other slaves. And even though Brazil had the largest slave poplation in the world, the numbers of people impacted are much larger than commonly portrayed. Brazilian sugar plantations were essentially death camps. If the demographic impact of the massive death toll at the sugar plantations are computed the numbers would be staggering.
Taunay, Carlos Augusto. Manual do agricultor brasileiro (São Paulo : Companhia das Letras, 2001).
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