In 1888, Brazil, with a mostly black and mixed race or mulatto population, was the last country in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery. During more than 300 years of slavery in the Americas, it was the largest importer of African slaves, bringing in seven times as many African slaves to the country, compared to the United States.
Another important difference was the extent of miscegenation or race mixture, resulting largely from a high sex ratio among its colonial settlers. In contrast to a family-based colonization in North America, Brazil's Portuguese settlers were primarily male. As a result, they often sought out African, indigenous and mulatto females as mates, and thus miscegenation or race mixture was common. Today, Brazilians often pride themselves on their history of miscegenation and continue to have rates of intermarriage that are far greater than those of the United States.
Miscegenation and intermarriage suggest fluid race relations and, unlike the United States or South Africa, there were no racially-specific laws or policies, such as on segregation or apartheid, throughout the twentieth century. For these reasons, Brazilians thought of their country as a "racial democracy" from as early as the 1930s until recent years. They believed that racism and racial discrimination were minimal or non-existent in Brazilian society in contrast to the other multiracial societies in the world. A relatively narrow view of discrimination previously recognized only explicit manifestations of racism or race-based laws as discriminatory, thus only countries like South Africa and the United States were seen as truly racist. Moreover, there was little formal discussion of race in Brazilian society, while other societies were thought to be obsessed with race and racial difference.
At the time of the abolition, Brazil's population was mostly black or mixed race until the 1930s, when Brazil encouraged and received a large number of European immigrants as it sought to find new sources of labour. In the context of the scientific racism of the time, which deemed a non-white population as problematic to its future development, Brazilian officials explicitly encouraged European immigration while blocking Chinese and African immigrants. The growing population of European origin was also expected to mix with the non-white, further "whitening" the Brazilian population.
The 2000 Census reveals that about 40 per cent of the national population is...