João Cândido Felisberto

Felisberto featured in headlines of the newspaper Gazeta de Notícias, 31 December, 1912, during the Revolt of the Lash. Original in the public domain.

Born: 1880
Years of Service

Born 24 June, 1880, João Cândido Felisberto was an Afro-Brazilian, and the son of former slaves. He grew up poor, and joined the Brazilian Navy in 1894. In September, 1909, he was sent to England, in preparation for the completion of the new dreadnought Minas Geraes, of which he would be part of the crew. While living in England, awaiting the battleship's completion, Felisberto came to realize just how bad conditions in the Brazilian Navy were, including the continued use of flogging as a routine punishment, and low wages. Geraes completed the following year, and sailed for home, with Felisberto on board, but sailors had begun to talk. Over the course of the year, Felisberto was involved in sailor's committees discussing options for improving their working conditions. In November, 1910, a sailor was whipped 250 times, and the sailors responded with one of the largest mutinies in Brazilian history. Led by Felisberto, they seized control of both Minas Geraes and her sister ship São Paulo, and the cruisers Bahia and Deodoro. Their demands were to have torture abolished as a form of punishment, improved living conditions aboard ships, and an increase of pay. The government eventually approved the abolition of torture, and granted amnesty to the mutineers, but the amnesty was reneged on after they stood down. Felisberto was one of many arrested, and he was tortured in prison before his eventual release. He worked in ports after his release, but was arrested again briefly in 1930. In 1933, he joined the Brazilian Integralist Movement, which advocated for unity of all races, but was loosely based on Italy's fascism, and remained supportive of the group even after it was outlawed in 1938. He was ostracized, and even persecuted by the Brazilian Navy in his later years, and died of cancer 6 December, 1969. A statue of Felisberto was erected in Rio de Janeiro.