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I Was Born in the Forest

by Otis L. Lee, Jr.

I Was Born in the Forest encapsulates the freedom struggle of Africans brought to the Americas in the bowels of slave ships from Congo, Angola, and other parts of Central Africa. In the seventeenth century, many defied the odds by escaping and establishing Afrocentric communities in the mountains in Brazil. Palmares, the most notable among them, existed from 1605 to 1694. Palmares was the forerunner of Black towns in America, and its mesmerizing leader, Zumbi, belongs among the pantheon of heroic African-descended leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Francois Dominique Toussaint Louverture, and many others. He and his people rose from nothing in a hostile, foreign land to create an enduring Black republic in colonial Brazil. Palmares and Zumbi have become transcendent icons of hope, perseverance, and the tenacity of African-descended people and all colonialized peoples who strive for and refuse to accept anything but unfettered freedom. Through a mix of travelogue and history, their story comes alive.

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