Luís Gama

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Luís Gama
A photograph of Luís Gama
A photograph of Luís Gama
BornLuís Gonzaga Pinto da Gama
(1830-06-21)21 June 1830
Salvador, Bahia, Brazil
Died24 August 1882(1882-08-24) (aged 52)
São Paulo City, São Paulo, Brazil
Pen nameGetulino
OccupationLawyer, poet, journalist, republican and abolitionist
NationalityBrazil Brazilian
Alma materUniversity of São Paulo
Notable worksPrimeiras Trovas Burlescas de Getulino

Luís Gonzaga Pinto da Gama (June 21, 1830 – August 24, 1882) was a Brazilian Romantic poet, journalist, lawyer, Republican and a prominent abolitionist.[1][2]

Personal life[edit]

Gama was born free in 1830 in Bahia, to a Portuguese fidalgo who lost all his fortune with gambling, and Luísa Mahin (also spelled Maheu), a free African woman of "Mina" nation who sold foodstuff in the city market.[2][3] According to Gama, she was involved in a rebellion that may have been the 1835 Malê Revolt, which is why she had to eventually flee Bahia in 1837.[4][2][3]

In 1840, when Gama was 10 years old, his papa sold him illegally, allegedly because of gambling debts.[1][2][3] Gama never revealed the identity of his father to preserve his father's name after committing this injustice.[2] Gama was first shipped to a port in Rio de Janeiro and from there was taken to a province in São Paulo.[2] Gama was bought by an alférez named Antônio Pereira Cardoso.[3] Cardoso would try to sell him, but no one would buy Gama, since he was originally from Bahia, and Bahian slaves had the fame of being runaways.[3] Cardoso then decided to use Gama as a housekeeper in his farm in the city of Lorena.

In 1847, a law student named Antônio Rodrigues de Araújo stayed in Cardoso's house.[2] He and Gama developed a strong friendship, and Araújo taught Gama how to read and write.[3] Thus, Gama was able to understand the illegality of his condition, ran away from Cardoso, and regained his freedom in 1848.[2][3]

In 1858 Gama met Claudina Fortunata de Sampio and had a child with her a year after by the name of Benedito Graco Pinto de Gama.[5][3] The godfather of his only son was Francisco Maria de Sousa Furtado de Mendonca. Mendonca, who was a big mentor for Gama and his law career.[5] Since Gama and Sampio were freed slaves, they had to wait to register their marriage until 1869.[5][3]

Gama died in 1882 because of diabetes, with thousands of people mourning his death in São Paulo due to his role in the abolitionist movement and freeing more than one thousand slaves in São Paulo through law.[2][5]


After regaining his freedom, Gama joined a military police force in 1848.[1][3][5] After six years, Gama was discharged from the militia for insubordination as he admitted to threatening another officer who insulted him.[5][3] In addition to being discharged, Gama was also imprisoned for thirty-nine days for insubordination.[5][6] After being discharged, Gama worked at the police station in São Paulo as a copyist and was eventually promoted to the police secretariat from 1856 to 1868.[2][5][3][6] However, when the Brazilian Conservative Party came into power Gama was dismissed.[5] After his dismissal, Gama became an editor for O Piranga, which was one of the most influential newspapers in Brazil at the time, where Gama published anti-slavery articles under a pseudonym.[5]

Gama worked a second job as a clerk in the private office of a high-ranking police officer by the name of Francisco Maria de Sousa Furtado de Mendonca, who eventually became a professor and dean at Faculdade de Direito da Universidade de São Paulo.[5][3] This allowed Gama to study Law at the Faculdade de Direito da Universidade de São Paulo, but did not finish the course.[5][2] In later life, he would work as a rábula, that is, a non-graduated lawyer with permission of the government to follow that career.

Political career[edit]

Gama was an active opponent of Brazilian Monarchy and helped create the Republican Party of São Paulo in 1873.[5] Gama not only wanted to abolish slavery but also wanted Afro-Brazilians to actively participate in the abolitionist movement as well as the democratization of Brazil.[5] However, Gama eventually denounced the group as some elite plantain owners who were members of the party wrote a manifesto asking for gradual emancipation and no punishment for slave owners.[2][5][7]


As a lawyer, Gama defended blacks in court who were illegally enslaved, especially those who were enslaved after slave trade was abolished in 1831, and fought for their rights.[1][2][5] Gama freed more than 500 slaves through the courts and also purchased the freedom of individual slaves.[1][2][5] Not only did Gama use his knowledge of law to help slaves, but also promoted the abolitionist movement through lectures, journals, and by fundraising.[2] As Gama established a positive reputation of being an attorney, he received funding from women's organizations and private sources for his anti-slavery stance.[5] In 1881, the Luís Gama Emancipation Fund was created to help freedom for slaves.[5] Additionally, Gama established the Abolitionist Center of São Paulo in 1882 and was the leader of the abolitionist movement in São Paulo.[1][2]

Literary career[edit]


Throughout Gama's careers, he would write in his free time for journals, newspapers, and eventually wrote his own books.[5] In 1859, Gama published his first book Primeiras Trovas Burlescas de Getulino (Getulino's First Burlesque Ballads), under the pen name "Getulino."[1][5][6] Most of the poems are satires about the customs of the 19th-century Brazilian Monarchist aristocracy and also criticized mulatto society for their emphasis on pseudo-whiteness. Due to the success of his first book, Gama published a second edition of Primeiras Trovas Burlescas de Getulino in 1861. Through poetry Gama not only mocked racism in Brazil but also celebrated black beauty and the Afro-Brazilian culture.[2][6]

Luiz Gama's first book publication, Primeiras trovas burlescas de Getulino.


During the 1860s Gama also became a journalist, collaborating with Angelo Agostini in Ipiranga, Coroaci and O Polichileno.[6] Gama worked specifically as a typographer for Ipiranga and Coroaci.[6] He founded the journal Radical Paulistano in 1869 with other prominent abolitionists such as Rui Barbosa, Joaquim Nabuco, and Castro Alves.[1][5] Gama also was the founder of a satirical journal by the name of Diablo Coxo, where he published political and social satire as well as anti-slavery propaganda.[5] Gama's political journalism heavily influenced the work and beliefs of Raul Pompeia.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Encyclopedia of Latin American history and culture. Kinsbruner, Jay., Langer, Erick Detlef. (2nd ed.). Detroit: Gale. 2008. ISBN 9780684312705. OCLC 191318189.CS1 maint: others (link)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Encyclopedia of African-American culture and history : the Black experience in the Americas. Palmer, Colin A., 1944- (2nd ed.). Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA. 2006. ISBN 0028658213. OCLC 60323165.CS1 maint: others (link)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Encyclopedia of emancipation and abolition in the Transatlantic world. Rodriguez, Junius P.,, Ackerson, Wayne,. London [England]. ISBN 1317471792. OCLC 908062295.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link) CS1 maint: others (link)
  4. ^ Elciene Azevedo, Orfeu de carapinha: a trajetória de Luiz Gama na imperial cidade de São Paulo (Campinas: Editora da Universidade de Campinas, 1999), 68.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Kennedy, James H. (1974). "Luiz Gama: Pioneer of Abolition in Brazil". The Journal of Negro History. 59 (3): 255–267. doi:10.2307/2716766. JSTOR 2716766.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Santos, Eduardo Antonio Estevam; Santos, Eduardo Antonio Estevam (December 2015). "Luiz Gama and the racial satire as the transgression poetry: diasporic poetry as counter-narrative to the idea of race". Almanack (11): 707–727. doi:10.1590/2236-463320151108. ISSN 2236-4633.
  7. ^ a b Braga-Pinto, César (2014-12-01). "The Honor of the Abolitionist and the Shamefulness of Slavery Raul Pompeia, Luiz Gama, and Joaquim Nabuco". Luso-Brazilian Review. 51 (2): 170–199. doi:10.1353/lbr.2014.0022. ISSN 0024-7413.


  • Azevedo, Elcinene. Orfeu de carapinha: a trajetória de Luiz Gama na imperial cidade de São Paulo.Campinas: Editora da Universidade de Campinas, 1999.
  • Azevedo, Elciene. O direito dos escravos: lutas jurídicas e abolicionismo na província de São Paulo. Campinas, SP, Brasil: Editora Unicamp, 2010.
  • Braga-Pinto, César,"The Honor of the Abolitionist and the Shamefulness of Slavery: Raul Pompeia, Luís Gama and Joaquim Nabuco." Luso-Brazilian Review. 51(2), Dec. 2014. 170-199.
  • GAMA, Luís. Primeiras Trovas Burlescas de Getulino e Outros Poemas (edited by Lígia Ferreira). São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 2000.
  • SILVA, J. Romão. Luís Gama e Suas Poesias Satíricas. Rio de Janeiro: Casa do Estudante.

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