Francisco Gê Acaiaba de Montezuma

Lawyer, abolitionist, statesman


Born Francis Gomes Brandão in Salvador, Bahia, of a mixed-race mother and a wealthy Portuguese merchant, Montezuma defied his father's wishes that he become a priest and instead went to Portugal to study Law. He returned to Bahia to fight for Brazilian independence. When Brazil gained independence from Portugal in 1822, he declared "a new name, for a new country". Stripping any Portuguese reference from his name, he changed it to Francisco Gê Acaiba de Montezuma, choosing an indigenous Tupi-Guarani surname combined with the name of the great Aztec emperor.

For his role in the fight for independence, he was offered the title of Baron, which he refused. He did, however, accept the title of Commander of the Order of the Cross.

Soon after, he was exiled to France for 8 years and upon his return, he became the Minister of Justice, was elected to Congress, was an embassador to Britain, was named Attorney General, and was even the president of the Bank of Brazil for a short time. He later founded what would become the OAB (the Brazilian equivalent of the BAR Association for lawyers), as well as the Brazilian History and Geography Institute, through which he published extensively on politics, history, economics and the law.

Acaiaba de Montezuma founded the first Masonic Temple in Rio de Janeiro in 1832, and became the "1st Sovereign Great Brazilian Commander" of the first Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite in Brazil.

The Masonic Temple in Brazil was not racially segregated, as it was in the United States. All suitable men were elegible for membership as they recognized and fought for the equality of men. The Masons were not just a secret society for literal builders—architects and artisans— but a society of nation builders: abolitionists, advocates for the indigenous, and agitators for a free, independent republic.

Francisco Gê Acaiba de Montezuma died in Rio de Janeiro in 1870.

Other famous Black Brazilian Masons include:

  • Mestre Valentim Fonseca e Silva
    (1745, Serro, MG – 1813, Rio de Janeiro)
  • Luiz Gonzaga Pinto da Gama
    (1830, Salvador, BA – 1882, São Paulo, SP)
  • Francisco de Paula Brito
    (1809 – 1861, Rio de Janeiro)
  • Adolfo Bezerra de Menezes
    (1831, Ceára – 1900, Rio de Janeiro) *Menezes was not Afro-descendant, but born into an ancient Roma family
  • André Pinto Rebouças
    (1838, Cachoeira, BA – 1898, Funchal, Portugal)
  • José do Patrocínio
    (1853 – 1905, Rio de Janeiro)