Fugitive Slave with Face Mask, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1846

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Image Reference

Le Magasin Pittoresque (1846, Vol. 14), p. 229

Caption "Esclave Marron a Rio de Janeiro" (Fugitive/Runaway Slave in Rio de Janeiro), based on a drawing by a Mister Bellel. The engraving illustrates a brief article on fugitive slaves in Brazil, and is apparently derived from first-hand information. "Captured fugitives," the article notes, "are forced to do the hardest and roughest work. They are ordinarily placed in chains and are led in groups through the city's neighborhoods where they carry loads or sweep refuse in the streets. This type of slave is so frightful that, while they have lost all hope of fleeing again, they think of nothing but suicide. They poison themselves by drinking at one swallow a large quantity of strong liquor, or choke/suffocate themselves by eating dirt/earth. In order to deprive them of this way of causing their own deaths, they put a tin mask on their faces; the mask has only a very narrow slit in front of the mouth and a few little holes under the nose so they can breathe" (p. 229; our translation).