Table of Whitening

Date: 1913
Owner: Butler and Tanner
Source Type: Images


This table from a 1905 guide book for Brazil shows how Brazil hoped to "whiten" its population in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Whitening would occur by having blacks, Indians, and mixed race peoples interbreed with whites and, as each generation became whiter, Brazil would eventually replace all of its darker-skinned peoples with whites. Note how, on the bottom of this table, the projected percentage of blacks in the population was zero; this chart, produced less than thirty years after Brazil abolished slavery, is a clear example that racism remained extremely prevalent. The fact that experts were postulating scientific solutions to the perceived problem of a multiracial society reflected the positivism that was prevalent among many learned Latin Americans at the turn of the century.

Dr. Jaoa Batista Lacerda, the director of Brazil's National Museum, argued that Brazil could become a racially white nation by the early twenty-first century. Thus, despite its tropical locale, Brazil would have the racial characteristics considered necessary for attaining European levels of civilization. Whitening was the dream of the elite class that considered racial homogeneity to be a key step towards modern nationhood. Such racist attitudes received legitimacy in 1934 when measures of racial "improvement" were included in Brazil's new constitution. It is worth noting that Lacerda was criticized by Brazilians because he presented an embarrassingly "black" picture of Brazil and his timeline of 100 years to whiteness was seen as unnecessarily long.

Reference: Stepan, Nancy Leys. Picturing Tropical Nature. Ithaca: Cornell University Pres, 2001.

CITATION: Oakenfull, J.C. Brazil (1913). Frome, England: Butler and Tanner, Selwood Press, 1914. pp. 67.