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Zumbi pronounced: "Zoom-bee") was an Afro Brazilian slave and one of the most famous leaders of Palmares. As a child he was given to a missionary, Father Antonio Melo at age 6. Baptized Francisco Zumbi, he was taught the sacraments, learned Portuguese and Latin, and helped with daily mass.
Despite attempts to "convert" him, Zumbi escaped in 1670 and, at the age of 15, returned to his birthplace. Zumbi became known for his physical prowess and cunning in battle and was a respected military strategist by the time he was in his early twenties.
In 1678, the governor of the captaincy of Pernambuco offered its leader Ganga Zumba freedom for all runaway slaves if Palmares would submit to Portuguese authority, a proposal which Ganga Zumba favored. Zumbi rejected the deal and challenged Ganga Zumba's leadership. Vowing to continue the resistance to Portuguese oppression, Zumbi became the new leader of Palmares. Fifteen years later, Portugal mounted an artillery assault on the quilombo. On February 6, 1694, after 67 years of ceaseless conflict with the cafuzos, or Maroons, (a Portuguese term describing the first-generation offspring of a Black African and an Amerindian) of Palmares, the Portuguese destroyed Cerca do Macaco.
Zumbi was wounded, betrayed, captured almost two years later, and immediately executed (beheaded) on November 20, 1695. Today, November 20 is celebrated, chiefly in Rio de Janeiro, as a day of national pride. The day has special meaning for Afro-Brazilians, who honor him as a hero, freedom fighter, and a symbol of freedom. Zumbi was the last of the leaders of Quilombo dos Palmares, in the present-day state of Alagoas, Brazil.
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