Benedita da Silva

A biography of the life and work of the African-Brazilian social rights activist, Benedita da Silva.

This paper charts the life of Benedita da Silva from her childhood of extreme poverty to her position as Vice-Governor for her state in 1998. It examines how Da Silva opened the door for Afro-Brazilians and women into the political system of Brazil and brought hope for a brighter future to an entire generation of children on the streets. It also shows how, through her social activism and political offices, da Silva has been focused on her goal of helping those in need and has not strayed from that goal even when faced with harsh opposition.
“Benedita da Silva, an Afro-Brazilian female, was born and raised in Morro Chapeu Mangueira, one of the infamous favelas of Rio de Janeiro. This slum had a high mortality rate among its squatter residences, and da Silva’s family was not excluded from this tragic aspect of life. Da Silva’s family had 13 children to clothe and feed, and although they had a very loving a dedicated mother, only eight of her siblings survived to adulthood. Da Silva’s father was also dedicated to the family, and he worked incredibly hard every day of the week as a construction worker, but even that could not provide enough to support his large family. So, even as a child, [Da Silva] shined shoes, sewed and sold fruits and candy (4), establishing a strong work ethic in her early in life.”