Greg Childs at AAIHS writes:
“A Escrava Isaura, the 1875 novel by Bernardo Guimaraes, was one of a number of late 19th century works of fiction in Brazil that focused on abolitionism. The story revolves around a young enslaved girl named Isaura, her efforts to gain freedom and become married to Alvaro, a wealthy white man who believes fervently in abolition, as well as her trials and tribulations with the plantation overseer who aims to seduce her and make her his concubine. It was quite transparently an anti-slavery propaganda novel. But it was also quite transparently an idealized romance, an effort to portray liberal whiteness as a heroic and saving grace for enslaved peoples. The novel was a huge success in Brazil and catapulted the author to immediate national fame.
“Later in 1976 the novel would be reconceptualized as a television show, or telenovela. It was wildly successful and became one of the most watched television programs in the world, broadcasted in over 80 countries. It was undoubtedly a smash success in South America but also in the Soviet Union, China, Poland, and Hungary. In fact, it was in Hungary where the most intriguing- or depending on your perspective, most comical- story about the telenovela comes to us. According to legend, it was in Hungary in the 1980s where the faithful viewers of Escrava Isaura took up collections after the final episode of the series to help purchase Isaura’s freedom….”
Read the rest: Childs – A Telenovela, Slavery, and the Diaspora | AAIHS