Brazilian laborers (ganhadores) strike against ID tag and tax legislation, 1857


To prevent the implementation of the 1857 Bahia City Council legislation which required ganhadores to register, pay for, and wear an ID card in order to work.

Time period notes

Slavery was legal in Brazil at this time.

Time period

1 June, 1857 to 9 June, 1857



Location City/State/Province

Salvador, Bahia

Location Description

The city of Salvador was known as Bahia during this time
Jump to case narrative


Ganhadores: enslaved and freed Africans who transported cargo and people in Bahia


slave owners
African women and youth

External allies

The Commercial Association
Bahian Provincial Legislature

Involvement of social elites

Joao Lins Cansacao de Sinimbu- president of the providence of Bahia
Firmino da Costa Menezes- scribe and attorney


Bahian City Council
The Bahian newspaper: "Jornal da Bahia"

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known

Campaigner violence

Campaigners stoned ganhadores who submitted to the council legislation by wearing their ID tag and breaking the strike

Repressive Violence

Not known


Economic Justice
Human Rights



Group characterization

ganhadores: enslaved and freed Africans who transported cargo and people in Bahia

Groups in 1st Segment

The Commercial Association
Joao Lins Cansacao de Sinimbu
slave owners
African women and youth

Groups in 2nd Segment

Bahian Provincial Legislature

Groups in 3rd Segment

slave owneres (exit) ganhadoran slaves (exit)

Groups in 6th Segment

Firmino da Costa Menezes

Segment Length

Approximately 1.5 days

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

4 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


3 out of 3 points

Total points

8 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

The campaigners were able to change the legislation set forth by the Bahia City Council. They eliminated the tax on ganhadores but were still required to wear an ID tag and submit a recommendation.

Database Narrative

During the 1800s, the slaves of Brazil held
uprisings and rebellions that led to the governments’ careful construction of methods
of controlling black Brazilians. After one revolt in 1835 the Bahian Parliament
passed legislation to control the “ganhadores.” Ganhadores were freed and
enslaved African males who transported goods and people through the city of
Bahia, now known as Salvador. Part of this legislation required that the
ganhadores pay taxes for their services. 
Ganhadores refused to pay the required dues in every way possible,
including hiding, giving false names and addresses, or not registering at all.  With this amount of opposition and civil
disobedience, the Brazilian government could not enforce the legislation.

In March 1857 the Bahian City Council attempted
to resolve its inability to control this segment of the population.  They set forth legislation declaring
that ganhadores needed a City Council approved permit and metal identification
(ID) tag in order to work.  Obtaining
these items cost 5,000 reis.  It
also required that a suitable guarantor take responsibility for the behavior of
freed ganhadores, and that the ganhadores wear the ID tag around their neck
when working.

The ganhadores decided to refuse the tax on
their profession.  They resisted
the ID requirement because clothes, hairstyles, and necklaces were used as
powerful symbolic indications of class and social standing in African
cultures.  They did not want the ID
tag to solidify their low class or proximity to slavery.

From 1 June to 9 June, ganhadores conducted a
strike to prevent the implementation of the 1857 legislation.  During the strike there was a complete
slow-down of the transportation of any goods in Bahia. Without the services of
the ganhadores, the merchants and city businesses could not operate.

The city tried to use trolleys and animal-drawn
carts as alternatives to the ganhadores, but those modes of transportation were
expensive and merchants still needed the ganhadores to load and unload the
items from the carts and trolleys. Slave-owners refused to comply in paying the
tax on behalf of their slaves. Upper class Brazilians realized that increasing
the taxes on ganhadores would lead to an increased cost in their services and they
also resisted compliance.

On 2 June President Joao Lins Cansacao de
Sinimbu, of the Province of Bahia, ordered that the Council revoke the tax
component of the legislation. The Province Legislature did not support the
Council legislation.  They approved
of the registration and ID tag requirement, but not the added tax. The Council had
to follow the presidents’ orders.  

The strike continued six more days with the aim
of eliminating the remaining regulations in the legislation. African women and
children in Bahia supported the campaigners. African women food vendors sold
their goods to ganhadores on credit during the strike.

After the fees associated with the ID tag were
eliminated, slave owners withdrew their support for the strike and pressured
their slaves to return to work. 
Some slaves began to go back to work, wearing the designated ID
tags.  These ganhadores were stoned
by their striking comrades who tore off the ID tags in the process. 

The media blamed the police for these incidents
of violence.  On 5 June the
newspaper, Jornal da Bahia, began to
refer to the strike as a crisis and an emergent revolution.

By 8 June, the ganhadores began to conduct
business again, but they did not wear the required identification tags.

9 June the City Council revoked their March
ordinance, replacing it with a tax free ID prerequisite, as well as a required,
“certificate of guarantee from the official of the district in which they
reside, and in the absence of this, from a notoriously respectful person.” Attorney
and scribe Firmino da Costa Menezes wrote petitions for ganhadores so that they
could obtain certificates of guarantee.

The novelty at this time of utilizing the strike
as a strategy in Brazil made it very difficult for the government to repress
campaigners.  The campaigners were
able to change the legislation set forth by the Bahia City Council. They
eliminated the tax on ganhadores but were still required to wear an ID tag and
submit a recommendation. After the strike ended, individual ganhadores
continued to resist compliance by not wearing ID tags.  When caught by the police they were arrested.


1) 1835 African revolt in Brazil and civil disobedient response to the 1835 ganhadores legislation.


[1] Klein, Herbert S. and Vidal Luna, Francisco. Slavery in Brazil. Cambridge University Press. 2010. New York, NY

[2] Reis, Joao Jose. “The Revolution of the Ganhadores’: Urban Labour, Ethnicity and the African Strike of 1857 in Bahia, Brazil. Journal of Latin American Studies Vol. 29. No. 2 (May, 1997) pp 355- 393.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Sarah Gonzales, 27/04/2013