Both American and Brazilian slaveholders warned that antislavery agitation could eventually reach the slave quarters, exciting the captives with ideas about escape or rebellion
The record of Brazilian slaveholders’ nervous reactions to abolitionism suggests parallels with U.S. history. Slaveholders in the American South voiced related fears about the abolitionist challenge, and they predicted a scenario of trouble that, in many ways, resembles the breakdown of slavery in Brazil during the 1880s. An understanding of the Brazilian experience suggests insights for addressing questions that have long interested students of U.S. history: Why did John Brown’s raid at Harpers Ferry energize the secessionist movement? Why did many slaveholders view Lincoln’s election with such fear that they believed disunion was imperative?