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Gama, Luís (1830–1882)

Gama, Luís (1830–1882)

Luís Gama (b. 21 June 1830; d. 24 August 1882), Brazilian poet, lawyer, and abolitionist. The son of a profligate aristocrat and a rebellious free African woman, Gama was born free in Bahia. At the age of ten he was sold into slavery by his father and shipped to São Paulo. In 1847, while serving as a household slave, Gama was befriended by a student and taught to read and write. Soon afterward, having become aware of the illegality of his enslavement, Gama fled his master's house. He served in the militia for six years and later established himself as a journalist, poet, and self-educated lawyer. In 1859, literate for scarcely a dozen years, he published his first and most successful book of verse, Primeiras trovas burlescas de Getulino. Ten years later, by then a noted author, he coedited with Rui Barbosa, Joaquim Nabuco, and others the journal Radical Paulistano, which supported the reformist program of parliamentary liberals led by José Tomás Nabuco de Araújo. As a lawyer, Gama specialized in defending persons kept illegally in slavery, especially Africans held in violation of the anti-slave-trade law of 1831. According to his own count, he thereby freed more than five hundred persons. At the time of his death, Gama was the undisputed leader of the antislavery movement in the province of São Paulo.

See alsoBahia; Literature: Brazil; Slavery: Abolition; Slavery: Brazil.


Sud Menucci, O precursor da abolicionismo no Brasil (Luíz Gama) (1938).

Robert Brent Toplin, The Abolition of Slavery in Brazil (1972).

Robert Edgar Conrad, Children of God's Fire: A Documentary History of Black Slavery in Brazil (1983), and The Destruction of Brazilian Slavery, 1850–1888, 2d ed., rev. (1992).

Additional Bibliography

Azevedo, Elciene. Orfeu de carapinha: A trajetória de Luiz Gama na imperial cidade de São Paulo. Campinas: Editora da UNICAMP, 1999.

Barbosa, José Carlos. Luiz Gama: O precursor abolicionista. Ribeirão Preto: Barbosa, 2004.

                              Robert Edgar Conrad

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