João Alfredo

Lúcia Gaspar
Joaquim Nabuco Foundation Librarian
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João Alfredo Corrêa de Oliveira was born on 12 December 1835, in the main house of the São João plantation, which belonged to his maternal grandfather, on Itamaracá Island, Pernambuco.

He was the son of Manoel Corrêa d’Oliveira Andrade, a lieutenant-colonel in the National Guard and owner of the Uruaé plantation, and of Joana Bezerra de Andrade, who was born on the São João plantation.

The second of 14 children, during his childhood he had a constant preoccupation with political life and studies. The situation of the slaves always concerned him.

Precociously, at the age of 20, he was elected as a congressman but did not assume the post as he was not yet of legal age.

He graduated in Law, aged 21, in 1858 from the Recife Law Faculty.

He stood out as much as a politician as an administrator. He was a congressman in the Provincial Assembly (1858, and President in 1876), representative of the General Assembly of the Empire (1860, 1868, 1876), State advisor (1887) and senator of the Empire (1877 to 1889). As an administrator he presided over the Province of Pará (Dec. 1869 to Apr. 1870), was a minister of the Empire (1870 to 1875), president of the Province of São Paulo (Aug. 1885 to Apr.1886), dean of the Recife Law Faculty (1876 a 1887), Minister of Farming, president of the Council and president of the Banco do Brasil, in the Hermes da Fonseca government (Apr. 1912 to Nov. 1914).

As well as his political and administrative skills, he was greatly concerned with culture and had an interest in education. In Rio de Janeiro, he founded a school for Maritime Apprentices, created the Faculty of Medicine, Law and the Escola Central, known as the Escola Politécnica (Polytechnic School). He sponsored artists, especially painters like Pedro Américo and Vitor Meirelles, from whom he commissioned the pieces Avaí and Guararapes, respectively.

He was the creator of various other important initiatives for the Country, such as the creation of public night schooling, professionalised teaching and the obligation to register marriages and deaths.

A great Brazilian statesman of the Second Kingdom, his name is directly linked to the abolition of slavery process: as a minister of the Empire in the Rio Branco Cabinet, which promulgated the Ventre Livre Law (28 September 1871) and as president of the 10 March Cabinet, which promulgated, alongside Princess Isabel, the Áurea Law (13 May 1888), eliminating slavery in Brazil.

His intellectual activity was limited by the priority he always gave to his political activities. He wrote the following works, collected in the book Minha meninice & outros ensaios (My Childhood and Other Essays), published by Editora Massangana, of the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, in 1988, in the Abolition series: Minha meninice (My Childhood); Memórias políticas (Political Memories); O Barão de Goiana e sua época genealógica (The Baron of Goiana and His Genealogical Time); Depoimento para a história da abolição (Deposition on the History of Abolition) and O Imperador: poder pessoal (The Emperor: Personal Power).

A convicted monarchist, with the proclamation of the Republic he withdrew from public life.

He died on 6 March 1919, in Rio de Janeiro, and was buried in the São João Batista cemetery in the presence of top authorities, including state ministers. His coffin was carried for part of the way by members of the Brotherhood of the Rosary, to which he belonged, and later by freed ex-slaves.

According to Joaquim Nabuco, João Alfredo is a name that will live on in the history of the country when all others are forgotten.

Recife, 18 July 2003.
(Updated on 28 August 2009)
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2011.


ANDRADE, Manoel Correia de. João Alfredo: o estadista da abolição. Recife: Fundaj, Ed. Massangana, 1988.

OLIVEIRA, João Alfredo Corrêa de. Minha meninice & outros ensaios. Recife: Fundaj, Ed. Massangana, 1988.

SILVA, Jorge Fernandes da. Vidas que não morrem. Recife: Departamento de Cultura, 1982. p. 235-236


Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. João Alfredo. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at:  <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar/>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.


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