Gilberto Freyre

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Gilberto Freyre
Gilberto Freyre1.jpg
Gilberto Freyre c.1945
Gilberto de Mello Freyre

(1900-03-15)March 15, 1900
DiedJuly 18, 1987(1987-07-18) (aged 87)
Alma mater Baylor University
Columbia University
Known for Casa-Grande & Senzala, concept of racial democracy
Awards Prêmio Machado de Assis, Prêmio Jabuti
Scientific career
FieldsSociology, Historian, Anthropology, Writer
Gilberto Freyre signature.svg

Gilberto de Mello Freyre KBE (March 15, 1900 – July 18, 1987) was a Brazilian sociologist, anthropologist, historian, writer, painter, journalist and congressman, born in Recife, Northeast Brazil. He is commonly associated with other major Brazilian cultural interpreters of the first half of the 20th century, such as Sérgio Buarque de Holanda and Caio Prado Júnior. His best-known work is a sociological treatise named Casa-Grande & Senzala (variously translated, but roughly The Masters and the Slaves, as on a traditional plantation). Two sequels followed, The Mansions & the Shanties: The Making of Modern Brazil and Order & Progress: Brazil from Monarchy to Republic. The trilogy is generally considered a classic of modern cultural anthropology and social history, although it is not without its critics.

Order of the British Empire British order of chivalry

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service. It was established on 4 June 1917 by King George V and comprises five classes across both civil and military divisions, the most senior two of which make the recipient either a knight if male or dame if female. There is also the related British Empire Medal, whose recipients are affiliated with, but not members of, the order.

An anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology. Anthropology is the study of aspects of humans within past and present societies. Social anthropology, cultural anthropology, and philosophical anthropology study the norms and values of societies. Linguistic anthropology studies how language affects social life, while economic anthropology studies human economic behavior. Biological (physical), forensic, and medical anthropology study the biological development of humans, the application of biological anthropology in a legal setting, and the study of diseases and their impacts on humans over time, respectively.

National Congress of Brazil Congres of Brasil

The National Congress of Brazil is the legislative body of Brazil's federal government. Unlike the state Legislative Assemblies and Municipal Chambers, the Congress is bicameral, composed of the Federal Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. The Congress meets annually in Brasília, from 2 February to 27 July and from 1 August to 22 December.



Freyre had an internationalist and precocious academic career, having studied at Baylor University, Texas from the age of eighteen and then at Columbia University, where he got his master's degree under the tutelage of William Shepperd. [1] At Columbia Freyre was a student of the anthropologist Franz Boas. [2] After coming back to Recife in 1923, Freyre spearheaded a handful of writers of the so-called Regionalista Movement. After working extensively as a journalist, he was made Head of Cabinet of the Governor of the State of Pernambuco, Estácio Coimbra. With the 1930 revolution and the rise of Getúlio Vargas, both Coimbra and Freyre went into exile. Freyre went first to Portugal and then to the US, where he worked as Visiting Professor at Stanford. [3] By 1932, Freyre had returned to Brazil. In 1933, Freyre's best-known work, The Masters and the Slaves was published and was well received. In 1946, Freyre was elected to the federal Congress. [4] At various times, Freyre also served as director of the newspapers A Província and Diario de Pernambuco. [5]

Baylor University private university in Waco, Texas, United States

Baylor University, or simply Baylor, is a private Christian university in Waco, Texas. Chartered in 1845 by the last Congress of the Republic of Texas, it is the oldest continuously operating university in Texas and one of the first educational institutions west of the Mississippi River in the United States. Located on the banks of the Brazos River next to I-35, between the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and Austin, the university's 1,000-acre campus is the largest Baptist university campus in the world. Baylor University's athletic teams, known as the Bears, participate in 19 intercollegiate sports. The university is a member of the Big 12 Conference in the NCAA Division I. It was associated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas but no longer.

Columbia University Private Ivy League research university in New York City

Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university in New York City. Established in 1754 near the Upper West Side region of Manhattan, Columbia is the oldest institution of higher education in New York and the fifth-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. It is one of nine colonial colleges founded prior to the Declaration of Independence, seven of which belong to the Ivy League. It has been ranked by numerous major education publications as among the top ten universities in the world.

Franz Boas German-born American pioneer of modern anthropology

Franz Uri Boas (1858–1942) was a German-born American anthropologist and a pioneer of modern anthropology who has been called the "Father of American Anthropology". His work is associated with the movement of anthropological historicism.

In 1962, Freyre was awarded the Prêmio Machado de Assis of the Academia Brasileira de Letras (Brazilian Academy of Letters), one of the most prestigious awards in the field of Brazilian literature. [6] Over the course of his long career, Freyre received numerous other awards, honorary degrees, and other honors both in Brazil and internationally. Examples include admission to L'ordre des Arts et Lettres (France), investiture as Grand Officier de La Légion d'Honneur (France), investiture as Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (Great Britain), the Gran-Cruz of the Ordem do Infante Dom Henrique (Portugal), and honorary doctorates at Columbia University and the Sorbonne. [7]

The Prêmio Machado de Assis is a literary prize awarded by the Brazilian Academy of Letters, and possibly the most prestigious literary award in Brazil. The prize was founded in 1941, named in memory of the novelist Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (1839–1908). It is awarded in recognition of a lifetime's work.

Freyre's most widely known work is The Masters and the Slaves (Casa-Grande & Senzala, 1933). This is a revolutionary work for the study of races and cultures in Brazil, written in a quite personal and impressionistic tone. The book is a turning point in the analysis of the black heritage in Brazil, which is highly extolled by Freyre. His effort both to rehabilitate the black culture and identify Brazil as a conciliatory country is comparable to the ones of other Latin American writers, such as Fernando Ortiz in Cuba (Contrapunteo Cubano de Tobacco y Azúcar, 1940), and José Vasconcelos in Mexico (La Raza Cosmica, 1926).

Published in 1933, Casa-Grande e Senzala is a book by Gilberto Freyre, about the formation of Brazilian society. The casa-grande refers to the slave owner's residence on a sugarcane plantation, where whole towns were owned and managed by one man. The senzala refers to the dwellings of the black working class, where they originally worked as slaves, and later as servants.

The Masters and the Slaves is the first of a series of three books, that included The Mansions and the Shanties (1938) and Order and Progress (1957). Other very important contributions of Freyre were Northeast (Nordeste) and The English in Brazil (1948).

The actions of Freyre as a public intellectual are rather controversial. Labeled as a communist in the 1930s, he later moved to the political Right. He supported Portugal's Salazar government in the 1950s, and after 1964 he defended the military dictatorship of Brazil's Humberto Castelo Branco. Freyre is considered to be the "father" of lusotropicalism: the theory whereby miscegenation had been a positive force in Brazil. "Miscegenation" at that time tended to be viewed in a negative way, as in the theories of Eugen Fischer and Charles Davenport. [8]

Lusotropicalism or Luso-tropicalism was first used by Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre to describe the distinctive character of Portuguese imperialism overseas, proposing that the Portuguese were better colonizers than other European nations.

Eugen Fischer German physician

Eugen Fischer was a German professor of medicine, anthropology, and eugenics, and a member of the Nazi Party. He served as director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics, and also served as rector of the Frederick William University of Berlin.

Charles Davenport American biologist

Charles Benedict Davenport was a prominent American biologist and eugenicist. He was one of the leaders of the American eugenics movement.

Freyre was also recognised by his literary style. His poem "Bahia of all saints and of almost all sins" provoked Manuel Bandeira's enthusiasm. Freyre wrote this long poem inspired by his first visit to Salvador. Manuel Bandeira wrote about it in June 1927: "Your poem, Gilberto, will be an eternal source of jealousy to me"(cf. Manuel Bandeira, Poesia e Prosa . Rio de Janeiro: Aguilar, 1958, v. II: Prose, p. 1398). [9]

Bahia State of Brazil

Bahia is one of the 26 states of Brazil and is located in the northeastern part of the country on the Atlantic coast. It is the 4th-largest Brazilian state by population and the 5th-largest by area. Bahia's capital is the city of Salvador, located on a spit of land separating the Bay of All Saints from the Atlantic. Once a monarchial stronghold dominated by agricultural, slaving, and ranching interests, Bahia is now a major manufacturing center whose last three elections have been dominated by the Workers' Party.

Manuel Bandeira Brazilian writer

Manuel Carneiro de Sousa Bandeira Filho was a Brazilian poet, literary critic, and translator.

Salvador, Bahia Municipality in Northeast, Brazil

Salvador, also known as São Salvador da Bahia de Todos os Santos is the capital of the Brazilian state of Bahia. With 2.9 million people (2017), it is the largest city proper in the Northeast Region and the 4th largest city proper in the country, after São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasília.

Freyre died on July 18, 1987 in Recife.


“Every Brazilian, even the light skinned fair haired one carries about him on his soul, when not on soul and body alike, the shadow or at least the birthmark of the aborigine or the negro, in our affections, our excessive mimicry, our Catholicism which so delights the senses, our music, our gait, our speech, our cradle songs, in everything that is a sincere expression of our lives, we almost all of us bear the mark of that influence.” -The Masters and the Slaves

Selected bibliography


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  1. "Vida – Honrarias". Biblioteca Virtual Gilberto Freyre. Archived from the original on February 6, 2012. Retrieved March 11, 2012.
  2. "Vida – Honrarias". Biblioteca Virtual Gilberto Freyre. Archived from the original on February 6, 2012. Retrieved March 11, 2012.
  3. "Vida – Honrarias". Biblioteca Virtual Gilberto Freyre. Archived from the original on February 6, 2012. Retrieved March 11, 2012.
  4. Gaspar, Lúcia. "Gilberto Freyre". Pesquisa Escolar Online, Fundação Joaquim Nabuco. Archived from the original on July 18, 2014. Retrieved March 11, 2012.
  5. Gaspar, Lúcia. "Gilberto Freyre". Pesquisa Escolar Online, Fundação Joaquim Nabuco. Archived from the original on July 18, 2014. Retrieved March 11, 2012.
  6. "Vida – Honrarias". Biblioteca Virtual Gilberto Freyre. Archived from the original on February 6, 2012. Retrieved March 11, 2012.
  7. "Vida – Honrarias". Biblioteca Virtual Gilberto Freyre. Archived from the original on February 6, 2012. Retrieved March 11, 2012.
  8. Gerald J. Bender, Angola under the Portuguese: The Myth and the Reality, Univ. of California Press, Berkeley, 1980, pp. xxiii, 5, 8


See also