Author Interview--Alan P. Marcus (Confederate Exodus) Part 2

Niels Eichhorn's picture

Hello H-CivWar Readers:

Today we continue our conversation with Alan P. Marcus to talk about his new book Confederate Exodus: Social and Environmental Forces in the Migration of U.S. Southerners to Brazil, published by the University of Nebraska Press in April 2021.

Part 1

You are bringing up Protestant leaders, here, and you have a significant section on Protestant Missionaries and their educational work. I was surprised how long-lasting this work still is. Did Southerners, who engaged in these educational enterprises in any way, taint what they teach with a regional bias? How much did they bring race theory and the like with them from the South into the Brazilian classrooms?

APM: Racial theory at the time (although that was not the terminology of the day) was certainly disseminated by scientists and writers who were in Brazil such as Louis Agassiz (known as "the father of glaciology") from Harvard and who was personal friends with Brazil's Emperor, D. Pedro II - as was Arthur de Gobineau, the so-called "father of scientific racism" and French diplomat who took at post in Rio. Both were in direct contact with Brazilian politicians. Agassiz was close to Reverend Fletcher (one of the missionaries who co-wrote a book with Reverend Kidder, and that encouraged US Southerners to migrate to Brazil, both reverends were considered as experts on Brazil and gave lectures in NYC and Baltimore). Both Agassiz and Gobineau advocated for racial separation, and were vehemently against racial miscegenation, prevalent in Brazil. Both also influenced Brazilian politicians, especially Tavares Bastos - and influenced Brazilian immigration policies that favored immigrants of European ancestry ("whites only") at the time, considered "Industrious" populations. The racialized rhetoric in Brazil took a politicized turn especially after the 1870s.

You are also touching significantly on Lost Cause material and memory with the Confederados. How do the Confederados remember the American Civil War, especially in light of how it is done in the United States? 

APM: No worries.   Recent studies for example, by geographer, Jordan Brasher illustrate the recent tensions and protests in 2019 at the confederado cemetery modeled after the Black Lives Matter movement in the US.  He has also looked more carefully about those comparisons with contemporary viewpoints.

So, it seems that the symbolism of the Confederacy in Brazil (ie, the display of the flag, etc at Campo cemetery), were once interpreted differently by Brazilians, since they were not associating them with racist symbolism or slavery in the way it was/is understood in the US - however, that understanding has changed.  The protestors have demanded that the cemetery to take down the display of the flag.

That is actually a great point, I wanted to explore a little more. You mentioned the studies by for example the Dawsey where Confederados look at the flag as a symbol of kinship and immigration heritage. I found that a bit ironic since Neo-Confederates in the US would make similar arguments about what the CS flag represents to them. I suppose, have previous scholars been too narrow in looking at Confederados and the meaning of their symbols, maybe been too uncritical?

APM: However...Perhaps some of the literature that came out 20 or 30 yrs ago or so, was also written by confederado descendants who had grown up in Brazil. So perhaps not so much "uncritical" but instead, they perhaps were genuinely looking at those perspectives from a "Brazilian" viewpoint since they had grown up in Brazil.

Just a footnote comment here to contextualize the traditional viewpoint of Brazilians on race...that in Brazil, the traditional public rhetoric until relatively recently, was a saying: "racism in the US is not the same in Brazil, the problem in Brazil is just social." However, as I mention in my book, for decades national statistics have shown that the reality is very different, and that race matters in Brazil as much as it does in the US.

Let's switch gears. You are placing Baltimore prominently in the narrative, why Baltimore?

APM: I was inspired by the pioneering work of Laura Jarnagin in her book, “A Confluence of Transatlantic Networks: Elites, Capitalism, and Confederate Migration to Brazil.”  I wanted to build and expand on her work about the vital role of Baltimoreans and of the city of Baltimore in this story.  I devote the first chapter in my book where I explain the “Baltimorean Connection” – mainly, how the reciprocal trade and commercial ties beginning in the 1820s between Baltimore and Rio began to expand and grow.  This commercial reciprocity involved mostly flour exports, and the imports of coffee from Brazil – where Baltimore’s flour mill produced the most suitable flour to export to the tropics (flour is extremely perishable), and, Americans became the largest consumers of coffee in the world.  The major commercial US firms working in Brazil consisted of Baltimoreans, who in turn, eventually inter-married with elite prominent Brazilian families creating familial ties between Brazil and Baltimore, for example members of the Wright family from the firm, Maxwell, Wright & Co.  I was able to research letters and documents at the Maryland Historical Society to supplement this narrative. Furthermore, members of the Wright family also helped to promote, encourage, and facilitate the migration of US Southerners to Brazil, and with their important political and local contacts in Brazil helped to also assist with the movement of US Southerners within Brazil.

I knew on the Atlantic, trade and migration were closely connected. Do these firms set aside part of ships for migrants or did they run passenger services?

APM: No, the Baltimore clippers were used for commercial shipments only (e.g. coffee, flour).

At the same time, it got almost confusing with so the three firms. Why did they create a new firm for Baltimore and New York each, was it just about the partners involved? 

APM: The firm, Maxwell, Wright & Co., was created in Rio - it was bi-national firm.  Very little is known about how it was created.