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Until the latter part of the 19th century, Brazil had an extensive slavery system. Slavery was used in both nations to fill labor demands for emerging plantation economies. Sugar was the chief crop in colonial Brazil. In 1532 sugar plantations ('''fazendas''') were established by the first permanent settlers. Six years later, Africans were imported from Angola to replace Indians as slave laborers.
There were about 100,000 slaves in Brazil in 1600 and about 600,000 in 1700. From the official census of 1798, 33.7 percent of the population was white, 14 percent was free black, and 52.8 percent was slaves. Black slaves remained the majority of the Brazilian population throughout the colonial period (prior to 1822).
Sources that discuss the historical background of and social conditions for slaves in Brazil can be obtained through local university and public libraries. The Family History Library has sources with information about the social history, including:
* Taylor, Quintard. "''African Families: Black and White''." World Conference on Records: Preserving our Heritage. Vol. 11, pt. 16. Salt Lake City: Corporation of the President, c1980. (FHL book 929.1 W893 1980; fiche 6085857) This book gives information about slave marriages and families.
* Pang, Eul-Soo. "''Modernization and Slavocracy in Nineteenth-century Brazil''." The Journal of Interdisciplinary History. Vol. IX, no. 4, pp. 667–688. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1979. (FHL book 981 Al no. 16)
* ''Escravidão'' (Slavery). São Paulo: Ed. ANPUH/Marco Zero, 1988. (FHL book 981 H6e)
* Dalla Vecchia, Agostinho Mário. ''Os filhos da escravidão: memórias de descendentes de escravos da região meridional do Rio Grande do Sul (The sons of slaves: concerning the descendants of slaves in the surrounding region of Rio Grande do Sul''). Pelotas: Editora Univesitária da UFPEL, c1994. (FHL book 981.65 H6)
A very important bibliography for sources on slavery was produced by the National Archives of Brazil:
* ''Guia brasileiro de fontes para a história da África, da escravidão negra e do negro na sociedade atual: fontes arquivistas (Brazilian guide to sources for the history of Africa, enslaved Negroes, and the Negroes in contemporary society: archival sources''). 2 vols. Rio de Janeiro: O Arquivo, 1988. (FHL book 981 A3g)
A helpful genealogical guide that discusses techniques and strategies for tracing black ancestry is:
* Nielsen, Lawrence James. "''The special problem of research and documentation of slave families in Brazil''." World Conference on Records: Preserving our Heritage. Vol. 9, pt. 14. Salt Lake City: Corporation of the President, c1980. (FHL book 929.1 W893 1980; fiche 6085821)