Guide to Brazil

Beyond “12 Years a Slave”: the story of Luís Gama

Luis Gama Brazil 12 years a slave
Bust of Luís Gama, São Paulo. Photo: SP Archives

On November 20, Brazil celebrates Black Consciousness Day—observed as a public holiday in over 800 cities. The date pays homage to Zumbi dos Palmares, a symbol in the struggle for freedom and empowerment of Afro-Brazilian people. But in this article, we will tell the story of one unsung hero in the struggle for racial equality in Brazil: Luís Gama. In 2013, international audiences were moved by the biographical drama “12 Years a Slave,” recounting the life of Solomon Northup, a freeborn African-American man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841, and his journey to regain freedom....

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