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Our Lady of the Rosary, African Slaves, and the Struggle Against Heretics in Brazil, 1550-1660

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In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as first French Huguenots and then Dutch Calvinists threatened Portuguese control of Brazil, Jesuit missionaries promoted devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary as a defense against both heresy and heretics. African slaves, as well as Indians and white settlers, were encouraged to join Confraternities of the Rosary in order to deepen their commitment to the Catholic faith and, by extension, to the Catholic political cause. Using sermons that the Jesuit father Antonio Vieira preached to black Confraternities of the Rosary, the article addresses the appeal these brotherhoods held for African slaves, and ways in which they became centers for the survival of African traditions in Catholic Brazil.


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