A Black Jurist in a Slave Society

Antonio Pereira Rebouças and the Trials of Brazilian Citizenship

By Keila Grinberg

Translated by Kristin M. McGuire
Foreword by Barbara Weinstein

226 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 1 graph, 1 table

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5277-1
    Published: December 2019
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5276-4
    Published: December 2019
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-5278-8
    Published: October 2019
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5611-1
    Published: October 2019

Latin America in Translation

Buy this Book

For Professors:
Free E-Exam Copies

To purchase online via an independent bookstore, visit Bookshop.org

Awards & distinctions

Finalist, 2020 Frederick Douglass Book Prize, Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition

Now in English for the first time, Keila Grinberg's compelling study of the nineteenth-century jurist Antonio Pereira Rebouças (1798–1880) traces the life of an Afro-Brazilian intellectual who rose from a humble background to play a key--and conflicted--role as Brazilians struggled to define citizenship and understand racial politics. One of the most prominent specialists in civil law of his time, Rebouças explained why blacks fought stridently for their own inclusion in society but also complicitly embraced an ethic of silence on race more broadly. Grinberg argues that while this silence was crucial for defining spaces of social mobility and respectability regardless of race, it was also stifling, and played an important role in quelling political mobilization based on racial identity.

Rebouças’s commitment to liberal ideals also exemplifies the contradiction he embodied: though he rejected movements that were grounded in racial political mobilization, he was consistently treated as potentially dangerous for the single fact that he was of African origin. Grinberg demonstrates how Rebouças’s life and career—encompassing such themes as racial politics and identities, slavery and racism, and imperfect citizenship—are central for our understanding of Atlantic slave and post-abolition societies.

About the Authors

Keila Grinberg is professor of history at Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro and co-author of Slavery, Freedom and the Law in the Atlantic World.
For more information about Keila Grinberg, visit the Author Page.

Kristin M. McGuire is a historian, writer, and translator in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
For more information about Kristin M. McGuire, visit the Author Page.


“This impressive analysis of Antonio Pereira Reboucas’s writings and public career provides fresh understandings of liberalism and Black intellectual history and opens for discussion the questions and approaches animating slavery and legal studies in the Brazilian academy.”—Hispanic American Historical Review

“Through Rebouças’s remarkable biography, recounted in lively prose and intriguing detail, Keila Grinberg offers a compelling, comprehensive, and empirical reinterpretation of the political and intellectual history of nineteenth-century Brazil. A monumental study of the social history of the law in Brazil and among the most important on nineteenth-century Brazil more broadly. Required reading.”—Sueann Caulfield, University of Michigan

“Organized around the life and career of a genuinely remarkable individual, this is a fascinating examination of race, slavery, the law, and nation building, and a pathbreaking work on Brazil's nineteenth century.”—Barbara Weinstein, New York University