The biography and ideas of the black poet and lawyer Luiz Gama (1830-1882) – the only Brazilian writer who lived under captivity–deserve special consideration. Born
The biography and ideas of the black poet and lawyer Luiz Gama (1830-1882) – the only Brazilian writer who lived under captivity–deserve special consideration. Born free in the city of Salvador da Bahia, son of a liberated African woman, Gama was sold by his father when he was ten years old. He was enslaved until the age of 18, when, in his words, he “secretly obtained conclusive proof” of his freedom. Following his escape from captivity, he served as a soldier before eventually becoming a public notary. After fifteen years in the police administration, he successfully applied for the right to practice law, despite lacking a law degree, and became one of the best-known lawyers in the country. Gama’s legal work helped approximately 500 enslaved people gain freedom. Through his apprenticeship and career as a lawyer, Gama contributed significantly and creatively to poetry, literature, politics, and law, shedding light on how different fields of knowledge interact and feed back on each other. Bruno Lima (Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory) analyses the extensive intellectual path of Luiz Gama based on numerous previously unknown sources and using methodological approaches of legal biography, microhistory, and social history.
Bruno Lima holds a JD from the State University of Bahia, an LLM from the University of Brasilia, both in Brazil, and in a PhD in Legal History from the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University of Frankfurt, with a thesis on the legal work of the Black abolitionist Luiz Gama (1830-1882). Currently, he is a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Multidisciplinary Theory of Law at the Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory. Lima is the editor of the 11 volumes of Gama’s Complete Works and his forthcoming book (Brill, 2024) shows that Gama’s legal work helped approximately 500 enslaved people gain freedom.
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