Brazil says, “Come down here, you rebels. We’ve got cotton to pick and slaves to pick it.”

Joseph Whithaker and wife were among the first Confederates to emigrate to Brazil where slavery was still legal.
Joseph Whithaker and wife were among the first Confederates to emigrate to Brazil where slavery was still legal.

“When the war (US Civil) ended in 1865, many former Confederates were unwilling to live under the rule of the Union. They were unhappy with the destruction of their pre-war lifestyle that included slavery. So when Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil sent recruiters to the Southern States of Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas to pick up experienced cotton farmers, many disgruntled Southerners jumped at the opportunity.

Slavery was still in existence in Brazil at the time, which greatly attracted the Southerners. Combined with their humiliating defeat at the hands of the Union, many felt that moving out of America was the only option available to them. Dom Pedro, who wanted to encourage the cultivation of cotton, made an offer they could not refuse – he offered them a package of tax breaks and grants, as well as a section of the Brazilian forest that they could call home. It was more than they could ever ask for – a chance to start over and create a new community with Southern values.” MORE at

AMAZINGLY some former slaves traveled to Brazil with their former masters: “A few newly freed slaves in the United States emigrated alongside their Confederate counterparts and in some cases with their previous owners. One such former slave, Steve Watson, became the administrator of the sawmill of his former owner, Judge Dyer of Texas. Upon returning to the USA (due to homesickness and financial failure) Dyer deeded his remaining property, the sawmill and 12 acres, to Watson. In the area of the Juquia valley there are many Brazilian families with the surname Vassão, the Portuguese pronunciation of Watson.Wikipedia

 THE LOST CONFEDERADOS  still celebrate in Brazil!

"My, y'all look just like some folks at home." (Courtesy of
“My, y’all look just like some folks at home.”
(Courtesy of

12 responses to “Brazil says, “Come down here, you rebels. We’ve got cotton to pick and slaves to pick it.””

  1. Where did you first hear about this?

    Living in the South but having spent the bulk of my life as a Yankee, I find this sort of thing – the cultural impact of slavery, the way it informed so much of the outlook of the people in subtle ways, etc – fascinating on so many levels. What would possess Steve Watson to stick by his former owner? Why did some confederates stay while others left?

    I wish I could travel back there and speak to these folks.


    • Me too. I think that not all slaves were treated the way we see in movies or read about in books. To show the evil of slavery Harriet Beecher Stowe was going to give us the worst case etc. I imagine that some owners and slaves became like family–we can say it’s dysfunctional, but such is life.


      • One thing I have learned is that reality is almost always more complex than I expected. Sad that it took me so many decades to learn such an obvious lesson. Better late than never, right?


      • Hahaha. We were raised in the northeast. Of course we were going to be programmed to think we knew better than everyone else and had all the answers if only people listened. Maybe that’s just youth. I remember saying to my mother, “If everyone just found one cause and really worked their hardest there would be no problems in the world.” Oh, the silly innocence of youth.


      • Indeed! I often got the message that “if only people were more like us, the world would be a better place!”

        Does everyone get those messages?

        Yes, I often made grand pronouncements like that when I was a kid. Even into my 20s I still often thought things like that but I had learned to at least keep quiet about it.

        Even now I still slip back into that mode from time to time but I do have an occasional stretch of not thinking I can solve everyone’s problems!


  2. Most people go by stereotype. My Spanish ancestor in Florida, would sail down to Cuba leaving his black wife and his black overseer in charge. The Kingsley situation would have been much the same, much more is known about Anna Kingsley’s life than my ancestor’s wife. The point in most Spanish and Portuguese based countries would have some similarities to the Florida situation. Slavery is not a white Southerner disease.
    I know you didn’t write the article, but the South was vastly outnumbered, so humiliating loss probably doesn’t apply. Especially when Lincoln resorted to the Scorched Earth policy; which would have many screaming if we used such a tactic in wars today.


    • Yes, I agree with you. Even with the tiny bit of research I did scholars debate if the reason for the migration was totally slave related. Also I agree that the master slave relationship is a complex one in any society keeping slaves. In new Jersey a lot of slaves stayed with their masters even when they were freed. I definitely agree that slavery isn’t just a southern thing, but a world wide thing since the beginning of recorded history.
      Now we don’t get to see the damage we do to people in our “wars” in other countries and to be honest I’m afraid to see.


  3. I think that when looking back into the past, it is important to remove yourself from the present and try as best you can to place yourself into the shoes of the people you are studying. Most people living in the south did not own slaves. We should dispense with the notion that all whites were slave owning beasts. Not even the southern aristocracy was intolerable toward their slaves, as illustrated by the number of freed slaves who remained on the plantations and worked as before … until the arrival of carpetbaggers. Where could these slaves go after the war? Who would feed them? How could they survive the winters? We should also stop talking about American slavery. Americans didn’t start the slave trade, most Americans were opposed to the notion of enslaving others, and 650,000 Americans died to free the slaves.

    Now consider a people who strongly believed in the US Constitution, which provides for the rights of states and citizens of states to govern themselves. What would you do if suddenly your town was placed under martial law? How should you react if government agents came and confiscated your firearms? How should you respond when land was confiscated and given away to other people without any due process? I’m suggesting that migrating to another country would be a plausible option to those completely demoralized by the heavy handed northern armies.

    Thank you for providing such interesting material. Seriously, this is one of my favorite blogs.


    • I agree whole-heartedly with what you just wrote. Couldn’t have said it better. At the moment I’m reading David M Potter’s monumental “The Impending Crisis 1848-1861” BRILLIANT. Potter offers an incredible, detailed analysis of the times leading up to war–proving in my mind that the war was indeed about slavery (many of the other differences between the states had always been there but slavery was the tipping point).

      The many many people north and south who were opposed to slavery are rarely celebrated nowadays. It’s sad. As the crisis escalated tempers and desperation led to political extremism and rationalizations. Anyway, too much to say for now.

      Also reading an article about the invasion of Pennsylvania leading up to Gettysburg and the horror of Confederate Cavalry rounding up black people (contraband and free, mostly women and children) and dragging them south while white mostly women and children looked on unable to do anything but cry–most men being off at war. One group of men did prevent their black friends from being taken. Human are so beautiful yet so bad. Ugh.

      One last note: The article I linked to had a certain hipster, self-righteousness I found a little distasteful.

      Anyway, I really appreciate your thoughtful input, Mustang! Keeps me on my toes.



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