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Black Awarenss Day

20 November,  It is a significant and affirmative date to celebrate the struggle, resistance and freedom won by black people as opposed to the freedom “given” to them by the official abolition of slavery.

Black Awarenss Day

Article available in: PT-BR

Last update: 09/06/2015

By: Júlia Morim - N/I

In Rio Grande do Sul at the beginning of the 1970s, Grupo Palmares, a cultural group that also discussed racial and social issues, concluded that the existence of the Palmares Quilombo was the most important moment in the history of black people in Brazil. In contrast to 13 May, the date of the official abolition of slavery, they established 20 November, the date on which the Quilombo’s leader Zumbi was killed, as a day of celebration for Palmares. It is a significant and affirmative date to celebrate the struggle, resistance and freedom won by black people as opposed to the freedom “given” to them by the official abolition of slavery.

The first celebration of 20 November was in 1971. Grupo Palmares held events year after year to strengthen the date. The initiative expanded its operations in 1978 with the national manifesto of the Unified Black Movement against Racial Discrimination, which designated the date as a national day of black awareness. Since then, known as National Black Awareness Day, it has marked the need to promote racial equality and reflection on the role of black people in our society.

Despite being celebrated for the first time over forty years ago, the commemorative day was instituted at the national level in 2011 by Law No. 12,519 on 10 November. The date is a holiday only in some states, such as Amapá, Alagoas, Mato Grosso, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, and cities such as Campinas. Still, throughout the country, the week of 20 November is marked by activities, events, seminars, celebrations.

In addition to the festival and the historical remembrance, the date was designed to mark and open debate on affirmative action policies for black access to which a democratic State of law must offer every citizen: the rights to education (including higher), health, social justice, and others. Even if the myth of Brazilian racial democracy is sung in verse and prose everywhere in this domesticated world, through politically correct thinking, we need to be aware that the wounds opened by three centuries of the slavery regime in Brazil still need to be truly ironed out; as well as the scars of social deficit and the burden of prejudice this long period left. (SÃO PAULO STATE GOVERNMENT VIRTUAL LIBRARY).

In 2003, Federal Law No. 10.639 on 9 January made the teaching of African and Afro-Brazilian history and culture compulsory in primary and secondary education and included National Black Awareness Day in the school calendar.

Over the years, the date has put the search for rights and equal opportunities on the national agenda, highlighting the black population’s demands for health, education, work and income, as well as the ownership of remaining Quilombo community land. Furthermore, it has been the frontrunner in promoting the fight against discrimination and racial prejudice.


Recife, 10 April 2014.
Translated by Peter Leamy, May 2015.

sources consulted

BRASIL. Lei Federal n. 12.519, de 10 de novembro de 2011. Institui o Dia Nacional de Zumbi e da Consciência Negra. Available at: <>. Accessed: 3 abr. 2014.

BRASIL. Lei Federal n. 10.639, de 9 de janeiro de 2003. Altera a Lei no 9.394, de 20 de dezembro de 1996, que estabelece as diretrizes e bases da educação nacional, para incluir no currículo oficial da Rede de Ensino a obrigatoriedade da temática "História e Cultura Afro-Brasileira", e dá outras providências. Available at: <>. Accessed: 4 abr. 2014.

BIBLIOTECA VIRTUAL DO GOVERNO DO ESTADO DE SÃO PAULO. Especial: Dia da Consciência Negra [11/2011]. Available at: <>. Accessed: 4 abr. 2014.

SILVEIRA, Oliveira. Vinte de novembro: história e conteúdo. In: SILVA, Petronilha Beatriz Gonçalves; SILVÉRIO, Valter Roberto (Org.). Educação e ações afirmativas: entre a injustiça simbólica e a injustiça econômica. Brasília: Instituto Nacional de Estudos e Pesquisas Educacionais Anísio Teixeira, 2003. Available at: <>. Accessed: 4 abr. 2014.

how to quote this text

Source: MORIM, Júlia. Black Awarenss Day. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at: . Accessed: <> day month year. Ex: 6 ago. 2009.