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Real life heroes

Zumbi dos Palmares

Portrait of three persons who suggled against slavery

Zumbi dos Palmares, Harriet Tubman and an anonymous slave represent all who struggled for freedom.

Zumbi was the last leader of the Quilombo dos Palmares, a fugitive community of escaped slaves and others in colonial Brazil that developed from 1605 until its suppression in 1694.

Fluent in Portuguese and Latin, Zumbi was born free in Palmares in 1655, and is believed to have been a descendant of the Imbangala warriors of Angola.

In 1693, the Portuguese launched a military assault against Zumbi and the Quilombo. Overmatched by the Portuguese artillery, the republic’s central settlement fell. Zumbi evaded capture for two years before being betrayed by a captured mulatto who was offered freedom in exchange for information about Zumbi’s whereabouts.

Zumbi was ultimately apprehended and beheaded on 20 November, 1695.

Today, 20 November is celebrated as "Dia da Consciência Negra" (The Day of Black Awareness) in honour of the contributions of the nation’s African ancestry and to dissolve the perception of Africans' inferiority in society. Zumbi remains a formative symbolic figure of the twentieth-century Afro-Brazilian movement.

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman is perhaps the most prominent face of the Underground Railroad, the famed network of secret routes and safe houses used by 19th century slaves in the United States to escape to free states.

Born a slave in Maryland in 1820, Harriet Tubman escaped to Philadelphia in 1849, but returned to Maryland shortly after to rescue her family. In defiance of The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which decreed that all runaway slaves be brought back to their masters, Harriet conducted over a dozen missions to rescue over 70 slaves.

In 1859, Harriet helped to recruit men for John Brown’s infamous raid on Harpers Ferry Armory aimed to incite a slave revolt. While the raid was unsuccessful, it encouraged the onset of the Civil War.

During the Civil War, Harriet served as a cook, nurse and later as a scout and spy for the Union Army.

In her later years, Harriet was a prominent force behind the women’s suffrage movement in New York State.

She died in 1913 at age 93, having left behind an enduring legacy of courage, grace and resiliency.

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