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University Of Florida Student Uncovers Tomb Of Brazilian Abolitionist, 'Sea Dragon'

NOEL KING, HOST:

For more than a hundred years, no one in Brazil knew where the Sea Dragon was buried.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The Sea Dragon was Francisco Jose do Nascimento, who was an Afro Brazilian abolitionist. He earned his nickname after helping to end slavery in Brazil in the 1880s.

LICINIO MIRANDA: The Sea Dragon is a hero. He was a man of humble background. He was poor. He was a fisherman. He worked at the docks in the capital of Ceara, which was a province of Brazil, now is a state.

INSKEEP: Licinio Miranda is a Brazilian studying abolition at the University of Florida.

MIRANDA: He led a major strike. He was able to convince all the dock workers, all the other fishermen, to join his strike, which ended the slave trade between his province and all the other regions of Brazil.

KING: This was the first successful action against slavery in Brazil.

MIRANDA: People understood that ending slavery was possible because unlike the United States, there was no civil war. So the abolition of slavery was a mass movement.

KING: But more than a hundred years after Nascimento's death...

MIRANDA: Although the Sea Dragon is officially regarded in Brazil as a national hero, I realized that no one knew where he was buried.

KING: So Miranda decided to find the Sea Dragon's tomb.

MIRANDA: First, I tried to look for clues in old newspapers, of course. Then I moved to try to track down by locating the burial records of the old cemeteries in Fortaleza, the capital of Ceara.

INSKEEP: Finally, he found the one cemetery that existed in the capital during the Sea Dragon's time. And Miranda started his search tomb by tomb.

MIRANDA: You're talking about more than 15,000 tombs in this cemetery.

INSKEEP: Miranda combed through graveyards until last July...

MIRANDA: I found a tomb which was in ruins and was very, very happy. I was certain that it was him because the birth dates and death dates were the correct ones, and I saw his wife's name there.

KING: Brazil has now restored the tomb of Francisco Jose do Nascimento, the Sea Dragon.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALVARO PIERRI'S "CHOROS NO. 1") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.