Portugese brought slaves from Africa over to three main spots. Bahia, Recife, and Rio de Janeiro. In Bahia, the slaves were mainly from West Africa. There were many run-aways and revolts, and small communities started to develop in the mountains. This is where the basics of Capoeira were developed. Slaves would return to the plantations and teach Capoeira to the other slaves. They didn't work the plantations on Sunday, so this was when Capoeira was practiced. Since the slaves were not allowed to fight (or practice a deadly martial art), they disguised Capoeira with music, singing, and dancing.
Slavery was abolished in 1888. Some ex-slaves went back to Africa, some stayed in Brazil, some organized into criminal gangs, and others became bodyguards for politicians ( cause they knew how to whoop some ass!). The government looked down upon Capoeira. The president created a special police force in the 1890's. It was created because some very influential people in high society were practitioners of capoeira (Capoeiristas), and it was seen as a threat to the government. Laws upon laws were created to abolish Capoeira, along with someone to enforce them--Sampaio Ferraz. Who was an excellent Capoeirista himself. The special police force also learned Capoeira to try and level the odds. But Sampaio messed up when he arrested a man named Juca. Juca's father was well known and was a favorite with many politicians. He was expatriated, and a black militia of Capoeiristas was formed. The police were ineffective against them, and at the same time Brazil was going to war with Paraguay. The black militia was sent to the front and became heroes.
Capoeira was still outlawed until 1920, and there was a new police chief--Gordilho. Capoeira became much less aggressive, and was known as a "folk dance." Capoeira slowly became more acceptable to society. At this time Capoeiristas had two to three nicknames. The police knew the Capoeiristas by their nicknames and not their real names. This made it harder for Capoeiristas to be arrested. (This tradition is still continued today, when a person is "baptized", they are given a nickname.)
In 1937, Mestre Bimba received an invitation from the president to demonstrate his art in the capital. After a successful performance he went back to his home state and with the government's permission, opened the first formal Capoeira school in Brazil in 1932. Years later, Capoeira was declared a national sport. Capoeira has been spreading throughout the world since.
"When you strike a martelo, kick to break your own foot; when you throw a galopante, punch to break your hand; and when you throw someone with the head to the floor, do it to make a big hole in the cement"-----Mestre Bimba
THANKS TO CHIMP FOR MOST OF WHAT IS ABOVE.