As Brazil prepares to celebrate its 500th anniversary in the year 2000, it will display to the rest of the world its most brilliant features - heady carnivals, samba, football and a bewildering ethnic diversity. But behind this glittering facade, lies a much more disturbing story - the history of the biggest slave population ever. Whereas 4% of all slaves went to the USA, 40% went to Brazil. This programme looks at those 4 million people on whose backs Brazil was built and without whom none of its present day culture would have been possible.
Using contemporary accounts, the film reconstructs the world as seen by slaves in Brazil over 300 years. Living and working in squalid conditions on plantations or in cities teeming with disease, most Africans survived only seven years in the New World. The harsh punishments meted out by their white masters took their toll too, and those that could, fled. But many found a way through the daily oppression by forging a new culture fusing the African and European, a culture which permeates the whole of Brazilian society to this day.