Brazil swears in first black supreme court president- Brazil’s African heritage

November 28, 2012

International, Laws

Brazil swears in first black supreme court president

Agence-France Presse

Brazil judge Joaquim Barbosa took the oath of office as Brazil’s first ever black head of the Supreme Court on Thursday, in a historic ceremony attended by President Dilma Rousseff and other top leaders. The son of a bricklayer and a cleaner, Barbosa, 58, pledged in his swearing in “to fulfill the duties of the office of the President of the Federal Supreme Court and the National Council of Justice under the law.” Barbosa’s elevation to the top judicial post in Brazil, the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery, in 1888, has been heralded as a breakthrough.

Despite constituting a majority of the population, Afro-Brazilians languish at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. Barbosa shot to fame as the court’s most vocal critic of a congressional vote-buying scheme laid bare in an ongoing trial — dubbed “Mensalao” or “big monthly payments” — of former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s top aides.

The scandal nearly cost Lula re-election in 2006, but the 66-year-old founder and leader of the leftist Workers’ Party was cleared. The former president also originally nominated Barbosa to join the top court, nine years ago, after his performance in a so-called “trial of the century” secured his reputation as an implacable fighter against corruption.

Barbosa, who earned a PhD in public law at the French Sorbonne university, replaced Carlos Ayres Britto, who retired at age 70. Brazil judge Joaquim Barbosa, pictured here in October 2012, took the oath of office as Brazil’s first ever black head of the Supreme Court on Thursday, in a historic ceremony attended by President Dilma Rousseff and other top leaders.

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Video: Brazil swears in first black supreme court president

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Video: Historic Day: Joaquim Barbosa is sworn in as chief justice
FULL SPEECH

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Brazil

The first Africans arrived in Brazil in the 1530s.

Brazil finally abolished slavery in 1888, just 12 years before 1900.

Brazil’s most recent 2010 census shows African-Brazilians in the majority for the first time at 97 million people of the nation’s 190 million people.

Results show 50.7% of Brazilians now define themselves as black or mixed race compared with 47.7% whites

Brazil has the world’s largest population of people of African descent outside of the continent of Africa.

The poorest section of society was 76.3% African-Brazilian and 23.7% white. The majority of Brazil’s slums are populated with mixed race and black populations.

In 1872, when Brazil’s first census was conducted, the population was split into just two groups: free people and slaves.

The wealthiest group of Brazilians was made up of 82.3% white people and just 17.7% African-Brazilians.

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Video: Slavery in Brazil

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Video: Brazil’s strong African culture -Yemanja Festival

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Video: Capoeira
The African-Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance and music

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Video: Quilombo today in Brazil
Africans who escaped from slavery founded towns in the interior of Brazil

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