Maria Firmina dos Reis: the first black novelist in Brazil

Maria Firmina dos Reis: the first black novelist in Brazil

Black woman born in São Luís do Maranhão, who became a teacher Brazil’s first black novelist: among many other points, this was Maria Firmina dos Reis, author of and other works.

Born on March 11, 1822 and daughter of the freed slave Leonor Felippa dos Reis, Maria Firmina dos Reis lived a large part of her life in the village of São José de Guimarães, at the home of a maternal aunt. She started her career as a teacher and was the first woman to be approved for the position in a public contest in Maranhão, in 1847.

It was reserved, but accessible, esteemed by its students and the village population. He created a free and mixed school, for boys and girls, eight years before the Golden Law was proclaimed – and was directly criticized. Such a scandal, the project lasted less than three years.

The writer was an active participant in the local press and collaborated with numerous literary newspapers, like and others. His publications were quite diverse, ranging from poetry, fiction, chronicles, to riddles and riddles. She was very dedicated in her intellectual life, and even composed a hymn related to the abolition of slavery.

Hail, Motherland of Progress!

Save! Save God Equality!

Save! Save the sun that dawned today,

Spreading Freedom!

The chain was finally broken

Of the nefarious Slavery!

Those who once oppressed,

Today you will have as brothers.

Liberation Hymn, written by Maria Firmina dos Reis.

Works by Maria Firmina dos Reis

With the respect she attained as a teacher, Maria Firmina published her first work in 1859, a novel denominated: with the release announced on the front pages of the newspaper, the book drew attention precisely because of its female authorship. Still in a strongly macho and slave society, she represented the author’s pioneering spirit not only as a novelist, but as a criticism of slavery in force at the time.

The enslaved characters of the narrative were worked in their human dimension, and the story presented a dense discussion about the condition of slaves in the 19th century, giving them a voice to disagree with their own condition. Even without the concept established at the time, the author works in a certain way on the importance of the place of speech, in this case, of hearing about the pains of slavery through the eyes of those who suffer it.

Among his other works, the Indianist narrative published in 1861 stands out, in addition to the sensitive and melancholy poetry of 1871. With the abolitionist movement gaining strength, Reis published, in 1887, the tale, establishing his position and supporting abolition.

The author died blind in 1917, at the age of 95, in Guimarães.

For a long time, his work and history fell by the wayside and, until today, a faithful record of his appearance has not been obtained. The most popular of these is a sketch, but it was made from the descriptions of another author with whom Maria Firmina was confused, in addition to revealing a whitening of her features.

Maria Firmina dos Reis

Even so, the gradual recovery of his trajectory, around 1962, was essential for his history to become a great inspiration today. Thus, the work of Maria Firmina dos Reis is of great relevance and guides essential discussions, not only for her time, but for the very remnants of that slave period, intrinsic in the dynamics of our society today.