São Paulo, 1900–1925
This chapter explains why a small group of men of color in the city and state of Sao Paulo had cause to be optimistic about their future at the opening of the twentieth century. Slavery was no more, and the laws of the new Republic formally declared all literate adult men full and equal citizens of the nation. As a relatively privileged group within Sao Paulo's small black and brown population, a select “class of color” in one of the nation's wealthiest and most rapidly modernizing states, these men far exceeded those basic requirements for citizenship. They were literate, cultured, and modestly well employed. In their social clubs and newsletters, they initially expressed hopes that displays of respectability, learning, and patriotism would help them overcome the lingering racial prejudice that still barred even middle-class men of color from certain jobs and public spaces.
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