The story of the Black Flag Rebellion had its inception on the last island to be permanently settled on the archipelago of Cape Verde due to it is very dry climate. The island is blessed with a great natural harbor, the bay of Porto Grande [big port]. In 1795 the first settlement was founded by settlers from the island of Fogo, they named their settlement Aldeia de Nossa Senhora da Luz; which is the current location of Pracinha da Igreja.
In 1819, Governor António Pusich resettled people from Santo Antão in order to help the village grow into a town. He also changed the name of the town to Vila Leopoldina, in honor of Maria Leopoldina the Queen of Portugal and Empress of Brazil also the Archduchess of Austria and wife of King Pedro IV.
In 1838 the name of the town was changed again to its current name of Mindelo. The Marquês of Sá da Bandeira conducted the change, in order to honor the Landing of Mindelo and the Braves of Mindelo [in Northern Portugal], who were led by Dom Pedro IV on his way to victory in the Portuguese Civil War.
Throughout the decades prior to the Black Flag Rebellion there had been multiple protests. One such protest took place in 1855 when the coal workers in Mindelo, Sao Vicente protest working and wage conditions established by the English businessmen operating the coaling station. The workers demands for better working conditions were rejected.[I]
There were two more protests prior to the “Black Flag Rebellion,” in 1910 Workers in the port of Sao Vicente strike for better working conditions and wages and in 1915 Fishermen in Sao Vicente stage a strike in protest against new taxes imposed on them.[II]
By the 1930s the world was enthralled in a severe economic crisis that lasted from 1929 to the middle of the 1940s and Cape Verde especially the Island of S. Vicente could not escape the effects of the Great Depression.
In 1932, Wilson Sons a coal company reduced its workweek to 4 ½ days a week and other companies were forced to layoff workers and these workers would spend days, weeks if not years without work.
On June 7th 1934, a multitude made up of men, women and children ran through the streets of Mindelo yelling and screaming hunger and misery while flying a black bed sheet as their flag. The multitude wanted to force the local authorities to solicit the Colonial Government to intervene and rescue the unemployed population.[III]
The protest had began near the door of an outspoken and well respected local carpenter named Abrósio Lopes “Nhô Ambrôze,” it is believed that Nhô Ambrôze was able to galvanize the multitude into believing that it was about time that they marched through the streets in order to bring their concerns to the authorities and so they marched from Ribeira Bote to Praça da Republica (Pracinha da Igreja) where the City Hall for the city of Mindelo was located.[IV]
According to local newspapers around 2pm some of the protesters made their way into the Alfândega [Customs] and looted some of the warehouses where a great number of food supplies were being stored.[V] The local military garrison was brought in to stop the protestors from looting the warehouses and bring peace and calm back to the city. There were lines of women, men and children carrying bags, cans and other objects taken from Alfândega.
Protesters evicted from Customs, began to assail the various warehouses of the major firms. At various points, the military opened fire, and there were two wounded, a man and a woman, and one dead, a 12 years old boy, who was wounded with a bayonet during an assault on warehouses that belonged to the firm Alfredo Miranda.[VI]
The demonstration and civic activism resulted in one dead, two injured, as discussed above, arrests and penalties for the most committed in the demonstration to be carried out on the islands of Boa Vista and Sal, and the deportation of Nho Ambrôze to Angola. For having sympathized with the people during the riots, the traders were assessed a 3% value tax on all goods that was traded on the markets of Sāo Vicente.[VII]
Although the results of Black Flag Rebellion were not what Nhô Ambrôze was looking for, these early protests and civic activism were to become the cornerstones of the most monumental civic activism of all the fight for Independence led by Amilcar Cabral and the other Cape Verdean Patriots.
By: Gerson Sérgio Monteiro
[III] Faria, Luis António, Suzana Abreu, and Américo C. Araújo. Cabo Verde Terra de Morabeza: Uma Viagem Atraves de Sua Historia e Cultura Valrico: LAF Enterprises, 2012. Pg.176.
[V] Lobban, Richard Andrew, and Marlene Lopes. Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Cape Verde. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow P, 1995.XXXVIII.
[VI] Faria, Luis António, Suzana Abreu, and Américo C. Araújo. Cabo Verde Terra de Morabeza: Uma Viagem Atraves de Sua Historia e Cultura Valrico: LAF Enterprises, 2012. Pg.176.
[VII] Faria, Luis António, Suzana Abreu, and Américo C. Araújo. Cabo Verde Terra de Morabeza: Uma Viagem Atraves de Sua Historia e Cultura Valrico: LAF Enterprises, 2012. Pg.176.