Gilberto de Mello Freyre was  an internationally acclaimed sociologist and prolific author known for his commentaries on Brazilian culture that sometimes inflamed fellow sociologists.

Freyre’s most celebrated work was “Casa Grande e Senzala” or “The Masters and the Slaves,” which was published in 1933. The book provides a colorful account of the lives of Brazil’s natives and their colonizers,  accounted the often harmonious – but sometimes antagonistic – relationship between Brazil’s Portuguese colonizers and their African slaves. Deeply detailed, the book cataloged Portuguese influences on diet, furniture, architecture, speech and gardening. The book was translated into five languagues and established Mr. Freyre’s reputation worldwide.

In his 120 books, most of them scholarly treatises, Mr. Freyre sometimes defended highly controversial positions. He argued, for example, that the Portuguese were the best adapted to colonize tropical regions because they had liberal tendencies and their Roman Catholic traditions were tempered by Moorish and Jewish influences.

Critics accused Freyre of displaying a tolerance toward slavery in his writings about Brazil’s colonial period.

In an interview in the New York Times in 1980, Freyre responded to that criticism.

Casa-Grande & SenzalaI knew some of the children of slaves,” Freyre said. “That probably affected my view of it. I am accused of romanticizing slavery, but I had good reason to think that not all slaves were victims of cruel treatment. My main theme was that the typical slave in agrarian, patriarchal Brazil was happier in lots of ways than the working men in the first period of the industrial society in Europe and in Brazil.”

Despite his critics, Freyre was heralded as a national hero for providing outsiders a glimpse of the South American country.

Mr. Freyre was a federal congressman from 1946 to 1951, and helped rewrite the nation’s constitution.

Young kidsHe taught at many colleges, including Columbia and Stanford. He is remember as an instrumental influence in creating the awareness in social sciences, founding numerous university departments and creating professorial chairs in cultural anthropology and social research.

Besides historical and cultural texts, Freyre also wrote fictional books, short stories and poetry.Other books he wrote include ”The Mansions and the Shanties: The Making of Modern Brazil,” ”Mother and Son,” and ”New World in the Tropics.”

Freyre continued to write and lecture into his eighties. He was well recognized by American and European scholars as a sociologist, politician, and writer. Moreover, he has been acknowledged as the most influential Brazilian intellectual of this century.

He died in 1987 at his home in Recife, Brazil.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: