Summer Olympics Showcase Athletes and Effects of African Slave Trade

If your kids are like mine, they are glued to the TV or internet watching the Olympic games in Brazil. This is a fantastic time to teach World History, Sociology, Geography, Psychology, Biology, and so much more!

As I watch the games myself, it’s hard to believe that it has been eight years since I was in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I remember the time well because I woke up, turned on the TV in the hotel and there was a tremendous celebration for the new president of the United States named, Barak Obama. The news of a dark-skinned person being elected president in the USA was everywhere and seemed to make many Brazilians proud. Sadly, like Brazil, the celebration and “post-racial” hope gave way to the usual agenda, but more on that in future posts.

Now, why were they so happy in Sao Paulo? Because people with darker skin in the United States and Brazil have so much more in common that most know. This “secret” is largely unknown because of course, it is not taught in school. The topic of slavery is rarely addressed in many schools (remember Lexi’s post on African “immigration“), but Black folks in the U.S. are at least aware through oral history about slavery. What many of us do not know, and I did not know until I was an adult, is that far more Africans were taken to other countries than the old “US of A”, to become slaves and nation-build through free-labor.

Man Stealing Numbers

“The Portuguese decided that the Indians were too fragile for plantation labor and, having been active in the Atlantic slave trade since the 1450s, they began to import African slaves. Soon, the sugar plantation system became entirely dependent on African slave labor…Due to this huge influx of Africans, today Brazil’s African-descended population is larger than the population of most African countries.” – Africa Enslaved A Curriculum Unit on Comparative Slave Systems for Grades 9-12

Now why does it matter? Because while former major league baseball player Tori Hunter was taken to task for his comment below, sadly, he spoke as a product of our school system:

“People see dark faces out there, and the perception is that they’re African American,” Hunter said, according to the article, published Wednesday. “They’re not us. They’re impostors. Even people I know come up and say, ‘Hey, what color is Vladimir Guerrero? Is he a black player?’ I say, ‘Come on, he’s Dominican. He’s not black.’ “ – Source: L.A. Times

There is so much I am still learning myself, and I sure don’t want my kids to be as ignorant as I have been for so much of my life. As we watch nation after nation being represented by the athletes, I cannot think of a better time to show Black young people their connection with other melanated people around the globe. But be warned, this could soon open up questions. It is at that point, you realize, you have the ability to teach and tell truth, and not his-story.

Check out the video below from a close friend of mine. Also, be sure to check out this blog as well, as I will be referencing essays from this blog, Black Women of Brazil, as it’s my go-to source for info on race and politics in Brazil.

Until next time…ALWAYS BE TEACHING.


2 thoughts on “Summer Olympics Showcase Athletes and Effects of African Slave Trade

  1. I love synchronicities in life. Mere days ago, I watched the hyperlinked video on how Afro-Mexicans are still trying to fight to be considered “Mexican” (and be granted constitutional rights as Mexicans) though they’ve been in the country for centuries. The absurdities that abound when it comes to acknowledging black people are mind-blowing!!!
    Your piece added yet another beautiful historical layer. And from the video, I had no idea that there were 150 million black Latinos! Wow!!!


    1. Thanks Alex! Author Neely Fuller always says that the most important tool for racism is to cause confusion. The more that I see, the more I see the wisdom in that statement. Lack of historical knowledge is a key component for keeping that confusion alive. If we could instruct kids these days to take advantage of the knowledge they have at their fingertips, instead of playing Call of Duty or Madden all the time, it would certainly help fight many of the social ills going on here and abroad.


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