Beatriz Nascimento (1942-1995)

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Brazilian political activist Beatriz Nascimento was born on July 12, 1942, to Rubina Pereira do Nascimento and Francisco Xavier de Nascimento in Aracaju, capital of the Northeast Brazilian state of Sergipe. She migrated with her family, including ten brothers to Rio de Janeiro in the 1950s. At the age of twenty-eight, she started college at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (FURJ) and graduated in 1971 after interning in the National Archives with historian José Honório Rodrigues.

Nascimento worked as a history teacher in the state schools, connecting history with research. She was one of the founders of the Grupo de Trabalho André Rebouças in 1974 at Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF) in Rio. The Grupo shared with black Brazilian university students race-related issues in education. Beatriz appeared as speaker at the Quinzena do Negro (Black Fortnight) held at the University of São Paulo in 1977, a meeting of major black researchers.

Upon completing her post-graduation courses at UFF, she was best known for the widely-circulated movie Ori created in 1989. The film, narrated by Nascimento, presented her personal history as a way of addressing the black community represented in the idea of quilombo. The film contained meetings and speeches of the Movimento Negro between 1977 and 1988.

Over a period of twenty years, Beatriz became a noted scholar of race-related issues and was one of Brazil’s greatest specialists addressing diasporic experiences of Africans and their descendants in Brazil the nation’s history and culture. Working alongside researchers such as Eduardo Oliveira and Hamilton Cardoso, Nascimento published articles in journals such as Revista de Cultura VozesEstudos Afro-Asiáticos e Revista do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional, plus being interviewed numerous times by newspapers and national magazines.

In addition to her intellectual curiosity about black Brazil, Nascimento was a poet. Her poetry showcased the experiences of being a black woman.

On January 28, 1995, Nascimento was shot five times and killed in the Botafogo region on Rio de Janeiro by unknown assailants. She left behind her daughter Betânia who was in New York at the time. Ivanir dos Santos, a militant of the Movimento Negro, believed the murder was racially motivated. However, Beatriz’s sister, Isabel, suggested that country’s history of urban violence particularly in Afro-Brazilian areas mean that criminals committed murders with impunity because law enforcement authorities were unable or unwilling to stop the violence. Regardless of the motive, Nascimento’s murder was the fifth of a Movimento Negro leader in the span of a year.