Through an analysis of the debates in 1871 on the Law of the ‘Free Womb’ in the Brazilian Empire, this article tries to understand the role of the slave mother and her freed children in the process of abolition. In addition, it discusses the possible obstacles and dangers the ‘Free Womb’ would present for the perpetuation of slaveowners' dominance.
* Translated from the Portuguese by Arthur Brokel.
† An earlier version of this article was presented at the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies (University of Michigan). I would like to thank the University of Michigan Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies for providing the translation. I would also like to thank Sueann Caulfield, Robson Machado Martins, Hebe Castro, Sidney Chalhoub, Rebecca Scott, Barbara H. Stein, Stanley J. Stein, Jeremy Adelman, Sandra L. Graham and the anonymous reviewers for the Journal of Latin American Studies for their very useful comments on previous versions of this material.