Run for It – Stories of Slaves who Fought for their Freedom


By Marcelo D’Salete, translated by Andrea Rosenberg (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-68396-049-2 (HB)

Art historian Professor Marcelo D’Salete was born in 1979 and is one of Brazil’s most respected authors and graphic novelists. A graduate of Carlos de Campos College and the University of São Paulo, much of his output examines the relationship of the country to its history of slavery and issues affecting the vast Afro-Brazilian underclass resulting from it.

This multi award-winning translation (hardback and digital formats are available) of Cumbe comes from 2017 and details in stark and shocking monochrome, all but devoid of dialogue or narration, a quartet of stories of slaves who risked everything to escape their shackles and set up free villages beyond the reach of their would-be masters and owners.

A brief Introduction sets the scene and adds context to the period (1500s-1800s) and explains the exact meaning and derivation of catch-all term “cumbe”. You won’t need much more. These are timeless tales of a problem that has been plaguing humanity since long before we started counting days and years. It’s with us still: either overtly or hidden behind sly commercial subterfuges like “zero hours contracts” and “races to the bottom”…

Appreciative, informative Foreword ‘The Sun rises on Brazilian Bantu Culture’, by Allan Da Rosa, further stokes every decent person’s moral outrage before the astounding examinations of humanity at its best and worst opens with ‘Kalunga’as a young man in love plots with his beloved to run away to the endless water of the title. Tragically, Valu and Nana are not as subtle as they think, or as determined as they need to be…

The troubles caused by white debauchery and slave pregnancy are ruthlessly detailed in ‘Sumidouro’ (The Well) when a natal event leads to death and terror, after which plans for a long-overdue slave revolt stumble as the plotters succumb to fear, mistrust, treachery and incompetence in ‘Cumbe’

‘Malungo’ means comrade and refers to a special companion sharing the journey from Africa to Brazil. As terror and superstition grips workers planning bloody reprisals against plantation-owners, the term takes on new meaning…

Accompanying these captivating parables is a full Glossary of terms and their originations, plus a copious Bibliography. Awful and beautiful, this is a superb testament to depravity and hope and one every casual consumer of corporate culture needs to see.
© 2017 Marcelo D’Salete. This edition © 2017 Fantagraphics Books. All rights reserved.