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Definition: Cabral, Amilcar from The Columbia Encyclopedia

(amēl'kär kӘbräl), 1924–73, revolutionary leader of Guinea-Bissau. Returning from Angolan exile (1956), he founded Guinea-Bissau's nationalist movement (PAIGC). By 1959, Portuguese repression prompted Cabral to adopt guerrilla tactics. By 1973 when he was assassinated, the PAIGC controlled half of Portuguese Guinea. When Guinea-Bissau became independent (1974), Cabral's brother, Luis, became president (1974–80).

Summary Article: CABRAL, AMILCAR (1924-1973)
from Africa and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History

A Marxist revolutionary and national liberationist, Amilcar Cabral was born in Bafata, Portuguese Guinea, and raised in Cape Verde. His father, Juvenal Cabral, an elementary school teacher, was a noted political activist who dedicated himself to improving the living conditions of farmers and civil servants in the region.

Growing up under Portuguese colonialism during the era of Portugal’s fascist dictator António de Oliveira Salazar, Cabral experienced firsthand the exploitation and oppression, including mass starvation, suffered by the poor and working classes of Cape Verde. Cabral began his political activity during high school, taking on the assumed name Labrac.

In 1945 Cabral journeyed to Lisbon to attend the Agronomy Institute on a scholarship. During this period he actively engaged in democratic struggles and participated in antifascist student organizations. Cabral also formed student organizations devoted to African liberation from the colonial powers.

Cabral returned to Guinea and Cape Verde in the early 1950s and took up employment as an agronomist. His work took him to villages throughout the country, and based on his observation of extreme poverty and exploitation and his involvement with the diverse communities he visited, Cabral began to formulate an analysis of local social conditions and appropriate strategies for liberation from the colonial regime.

Cabral played a central part in the formation of the Partido Africano de Indepencia de Guine e Capo Verde (PAIGC; African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde) in 1956. The PAIGC would become the primary force of national liberation struggles against the Portuguese. In 1963 the PAIGC launched an all-out campaign of armed struggle against the colonial regime. Within two years it had liberated large areas of land from the Portuguese and brought the areas under the leadership of the PAIGC.

In 1972 Cabral initiated a National People’s Assembly, based on a popular vote for representatives of the liberated territories, in preparation for national independence. In January 1973, only months before the national liberation struggle claimed victory, Cabral was assassinated by a former colleague operating with the assistance of Portuguese agents who had infiltrated the PAIGC.

Cabral’s writings on armed struggle and his theories on the value of national culture as an essential element in resistance to foreign domination have influenced revolutionaries worldwide. His work was taken up by armed struggle movements in the United States, notably the Black Liberation Army, as well as by socialist movements in Grenada and Guyana.

  • Chabal, Patrick. Amilcar Cabral: Revolutionary Leadership and People’s War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.
  • Chailand, Gerard. Armed Struggle in Africa: With the Guerrillas in “Portuguese” Guinea. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1969.
  • Davidson, Basil. No Fist is Big Enough to Hide the Sky: The Liberation of Guine and Cape Verde: Aspects of an African Revolution. London: Zed Books, 1981.
  • McCullough, Jock. In the Twilight of Revolution: The Political Theory of Amilcar Cabral. London and Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983.
  • Jeff Shantz

    Copyright © 2008 by ABC-CLIO, Inc.

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