This book sets out to trace the webs of relationships among black writers, intellectuals, and artists in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro during the second half of the 1800s. In so doing, it seeks to illuminate the conditions of free black life in those cities and the role of Afro-Brazilian individuals and institutions in Brazilian politics, society, and culture.

Rather than try to cover the entire free black populations of those two cities, Ana Flávia Magalhães Pinto selects four men guaranteed to hold her readers' attention: journalist and novelist Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis; lawyer, writer, and abolitionist Luís Gama; and the journalists and abolitionists José do Patrocínio and José Ferreira de Menezes. Pinto also includes a supporting cast of additional individuals whose lives intersected with those four figures.

In order to follow her subjects through their adult lives—very little documentary evidence survives on their childhoods—Pinto engages in a...

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