Joaquim Nabuco

Joaquim Nabuco

Joaquim Nabuco at age 53, 1902.
Born (1849-08-19)August 19, 1849
Recife, Empire of Brazil
Died January 17, 1910(1910-01-17) (aged 60)
Washington, D.C., United States of America
Religion Roman Catholicism
Cursive signature in ink

Joaquim Aurélio Barreto Nabuco de Araújo (August 19, 1849 – January 17, 1910) was a Brazilian writer, statesman, and a leading voice in the abolitionist movement of his country.


Born in Brazil, Joaquim was the son of a major political figure in the Brazilian Empire, Jose Thomas Nabuco (1813–1878), a lifetime senator, counselor of state, and wealthy landowner. Jose made his move from conservativism to liberalism in the 1860s, establishing the Liberal Party in 1868 and supporting the reforms that would lead to the abolition of slavery in 1888. ("Joaquim Nabuco, Conservative Historian", Richard Graham, Luso-Brazilian Review, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Summer, 1980), pp. 1–16)

Joaquim Nabuco spent most of his time from 1873 to 1878 traveling and living abroad. In his youth, Nabuco had a 14-year relationship with financier and philanthropist Eufrásia Teixeira Leite, who held one of the largest fortunes of the world at the time. Eufrásia and her sister, Francisca Bernardina Teixeira Leite (1845-1899) inherited, after their parents' death, in 1872, a fortune equivalent to 5% of all Brazilian exports. In 1873, the two young ladies had decided to live in Paris. The romance with Nabuco begun during a trip by ship to Europe, in 1873, and would last until 1887, when Eufrásia sent her last letter to Joaquim Nabuco. Two years later, at 38 years old, he got married to Evelina Torres Soares Ribeiro. Eufrásia, however, never got married.

After returning to Brazil in 1878, Nabuco began his public fight against slavery through his political activity and in his writings. He campaigned against slavery in the Chamber of Deputies from 1878, and he founded the Brazilian Anti-Slavery Society. In 1883, he wrote probably the most important work against slavery in the Portuguese language: O Abolicionismo. Although he was largely responsible for the abolition of slavery in 1888, contemporary affirmative action intellectuals believe his reasons for doing so were related to an elitist fear of slavery "Africanizing" Brazil. He is quoted as saying, "Free labor and slave labor cannot coexist, and neither can slavery and immigration". (Citation: Sales Augusto dos Santos, translated by Laurence Hallewell, "Historical Roots of the 'Whitening' of Brazil" in the journal Latin American Perspectives, 2002.) However, it is hard to explain, under this view, why Nabuco would want Africans to become free citizens when slave traffic had already been prohibited.

After the overthrow of the Brazilian monarchy he retired from public life for a period of time.

Joaquim Nabuco at age 29, 1878

He later became the first ambassador from Brazil to the United States from 1905–1910, which marked a significant shift in his country's role in the world arena. Nabuco realized the importance for Brazil, and other South American nations, to develop a united relationship with the North American stage. In Washington, he worked with Elihu Root who also supported this idea of Pan-Americanism. He spent many years in both England and France, where he was a strong proponent of Pan-Americanism, presiding over the 1906 Pan-Americanism conference. Following Nabuco's death on January 17, 1910, the Pan-American Building in Washington, D.C. was finally completed. At the dedication ceremony the Secretary of State said the following words about him: “One voice that should have spoken here today is silent, but many of us cannot forget or cease to mourn and to honor our dear and noble friend, Joaquim Nabuco. Ambassador from Brazil, dean of the American diplomatic corps, respected, admired, trusted, loved and followed by all of us, he was a commanding figure in the international movement of which the creation of this building is part…” (Citation: Ronald Hilton and Alexander Wyse, Reviewed Work: '"The Life of Joaquim Nabuco" by Carolina Nabuco' in the journal of The Americas, 1950.)

His best known work is his autobiography Minha formação (My education), published in 1900. It vividly portrays the slaveholding society in 19th century Brazil.

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Preceded by
Antônio Peregrino Maciel Monteiro (patron)

Brazilian Academy of Letters – Occupant of the 27th chair

Succeeded by
Dantas Barreto
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