Cândido da Fonseca Galvão, also known as Oba II d’Africa (1845-1890) was a Brazilian man who fought in the War of the Triple Alliance (also called the Paraguayan War) and claimed to be the grandson of an African prince whose son had been brought to Brazil as a slave. Galvão himself was born a free man in Bahia, and enlisted in the military at a time when Black slavery was still legal in what was then the Empire of Brazil.
Galvão was the grandson of the powerful African prince Alafin Abiodun, who unified the Yoruba kingdom of Oyó in the late eighteenth century. Galvão’s father fought in the wars that raged in that region of Africa in the early nineteenth century, was captured in battle, and sold into slavery. He was then transported to Bahia. With the help of friends among the Yoruba community in Salvador, Galvão’s father quickly purchased his freedom. He then married and had children. As an offspring of freedpersons, Cândido Galvão was raised as a free black man near the town of Lençóis in the interior of Bahia.
Dom Obá II considered it his duty to fight for his country in the war against Paraguay. “As the patriotic soldier that I am, I understand that I have only been doing my duty in taking an active part in all the matters that I understand to be grave.” Enlisting as a Voluntário in the all-black Zuavo company that departed from Lençóis on May 1865, Galvão remained at the front until wounded in his right hand in August 1866. After his return to Bahia, where he remained through the decade of the 1870s, Galvão petitioned government officials for recognition of his service during the war and for monetary compensation. His experience in Paraguay inspired his commitment to ending slavery in Brazil and his pride in being a black man.
Galvão settled in Rio de Janeiro in 1880, where he gained renown. The wealthy considered him a “disturbed veteran” (uma espécie de veterano resmungão) and “folkloric aberration” due to his outspokenness and appearance in attire that included a long black morning coat, tall hat, gloves, umbrella, and walking cane. An activist of the first order, Galvão met personally with the Emperor [Pedro II of Brazil] 125 at public meetings from June 1882 to December 1884! Dom Obá garnered great respect among “the Blacks and the Browns” (the terms commonly used by Galvão) residing in the city. Slaves, freedpersons, and free persons of color all provided financial support that enabled the prince to publish articles in newspapers. In his writings, Galvão praised the contributions of black and brown soldiers during the Paraguayan war, condemned the racism he witnessed in Brazil, and called for an end to slavery.
(Source: Dale Torston Graden, From Slavery to Freedom in Brazil: Bahia, 1835-1900.)