Rosa was born in West Africa around 1720, but brought to Brazil in a slave ship when she was six years old. She lived as a slave and prostitute until her dedication to God and visions brought her to the attention of a local priest. Her freedom was purchased and she went on to write the first book ever written by a black Brazilian woman and found a refuge for women very much like herself.
This episode belongs in the series “A Slave, but Now I’m Free.”
Selected Sources and Images
There is a biography of Rosa Egipcíaca, but it’s in Portuguese, which I haven’t yet learned. Fortunately, the biographer. Luis Mott, gave a talk at a symposium at the University of Maryland, and the talk is in English.
She also appears in Dr. Rachel Spaulding’s dissertation “The Word and The Flesh: The Transformation of Female Slave Subject to Mystic Agent through Performance in the Texts of Úrsula de Jesus, Theresa (Chicaba) de Santo Domingo and Rosa Maria Egipcíaca”.
And she is also included in this article from Black Perspectives on Excavating the History of Afro-Brazilian Women.
Unsurprisingly, there are not many images of Rosa Egipcíaca, but this is the certificate of death from the Lisbon Inquisitorial Archives.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
The feature image is not of Rosa herself. It is an 1867 bust by JB Carpeaux and entitled Pourquoi Naître Esclave? (Why be born a slave?) and is meant to personify Africa. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.