Moacir Gadotti (Paulo Freire Institute)

1958 – 09 to 16 July – Paulo Freire presents the theoretical bases of his literacy system for adults during the second National Congress of Adult Education, in Rio de Janeiro, as the coordinator of the working group’s report on “Adult Education of Adults and marginal populations: the problem of the mocambos”. This Report “is the germ of all ethic-political- critic literature of Paulo of education for transformation. (Freire, 2006:126)

1959 – Paulo Freire presents his concourse’s thesis for the chair of History and Philosophy of Education at the School of “Belas Artes” in Pernambuco, entitle Education and Brazilian present. This is the “first systematic elaboration” of his thought which “axles and categories would pervade all his work” (Romão, 2001 p. XIII )

1960 – 13 May – Foundation of the “Movimento de Cultura Popular – MCP” (in english, Popular Culture Movement), in Recife, in the administration of newly elected Mayor, Miguel Arraes, with 90 foundering partners, and Germano Coelho as one of its founders and Paulo Freire as one of its members most active. The ideals of the (MCP) spread rapidly by several northeastern states. The MCP associated popular culture to political struggle, sensitizing the masses and alphabetizing through culture’s circle. Grounded the first experience of the Paulo Freire system, in the “Dona Olegarinha” Center, in 1962, and the first National Literacy Meeting of Popular Culture, promoted by the Ministry of Education, in 1963.

1961- February – Launch, in Natal, by the Secretary of Education Moacyr de Góes, of the Campaign “on bear foot we can also learn” during the administration of the Mayor Djalma Maranhão, understanding education and culture as instruments of freedom.

1961 – 21 March – On the initiative of the Catholic Church the “Movimento de Educação de Base – MEB” (in enlgish, Grassroots Movement of Education) was created through Decree 50.370, a partnership between the Federal Government and the “CNBB – Conferência Nacional de Bispos do Brasil” (in english, NCBB – National Conference of Bishops of Brazil) to contribute in the adult literacy process, using the catholic network stations, promoting the appreciation of human and community development.

1961 – April – The “União Nacional dos Estudantes – UNE” (in english, National Union of Students – NUS) creates the “Centro Popular de Cultura – CPC” (in english, Popular Center of Culture – PCC) paving the way for the politicization of the social issues. Its goals was to create and disseminate a revolutionary popular art, defending the political engagement of the artist to overcome alienation and naive consciousness of the masses. For that, they promoted the staging of critical plays in the gates of factories, on the streets and in unions.

1961 – Aluísio Alves is elected Governor of the State Rio Grande do Norte.

1961 – 25 August – Jânio Quadros leaves the presidency which he held from January 31st of that year.

1961 – 07 September – João Goulart takes office as president, exercising the mandate until April 1st, 1964 (military coup).

1962 – January – Paulo Freire and his group of “Serviço de Extensão Cultura da Universidade de Recife – SEC/UR” (in English, Cultural Extension Service of the University of Recife – CES/UR) advise the “Campanha de Educação Popular da Paraíba – CEPLAR (in English, Campaign for Popular Education of Paraíba – CPEP), created in João Pessoa by university students and recently formed professionals for the adult literacy.

1962 – 13 April – João Goulart signs in Washington “Agreement Brazil-USA on the Northeast”.

1962 – 18 September – Darcy Ribeiro assumes the Ministry of Education exercising the mandate until 23 January 1963.

1962 – Mid-September – Calazans Fernandes, Secretary of Education of the State of Rio Grande do Norte and coordinator of the “Serviço Cooperativo de Educação do Rio Grande do Norte – SECERN” (in English, Cooperative Educational Services of Rio Grande do Norte – CESRN) and Maria José Monteiro, Paulo Freire’s former student in pedagogy, meet with him in the Cultural Extension Service of the University of Recife to talk about the Angicos’ s Project of Adult Literacy.

1962 – (End of) September – At Paulo Freire’s house (Alfredo Coutinho street, 79, Recife), Aluisio Alves, Calazans Fernandes and Maria José Monteiro meet with Paulo Freire, accepting to participate in the project with two conditions: autonomy to hire the coordinators and educators and no ideological and political-pedagogical interference (Paulo Freire feared that the fact that the resources where from the “Aliança para o Progresso” (in English, Alliance for Progress) could interfere with his work).

1962 – December – Marcos Guerra, a law student and president of the UNE, at the request of Paulo Freire, forms the educators (monitors) group for the “Programa de Alfabetização de Angicos” (in English, Angicos’s Program of Literacy), a partnership between the SECERN and the SEC/UR which Paulo Freire was director. The work starts with the survey of the illiterates’ number in Angicos and research of the “universo vocabular” (in English, vocabulary universe) (generating words and themes).

1962 – 03 December – Celebration of the agreement between the MEC (in Engish, Ministry of Education and Culture) and the SUDENE (in English, Superintendence of Northeast Development – SND), the State of Rio Grande do Norte and the USAID (United State Agency for International Development), within the purposes of the “Aliança para o Progresso”.

1963 – January – Selection of 21 coordinators (educators) from the Culture’s Circles, among them Madalena Freire and her supervisor, Carlos Lyra. Formation of the team with the collaboration of Elza Freire.

1963 – 18 January – Lauch of the project with the inaugural class of the “Experimento de Angicos” (in English, Experiment of Angicos) with the presence of Aluisio Alves: 380 habitants begin their literacy.

1963 – 24 January – First regular class of the project about the theme: “Anthropological concept of culture” starting the first of the “Quarenta horas de Angicos” (in English, Forty hours of Angicos)

1963 – 28 January – First literacy class starting with the generating word “belota” – Belota was a local alteration of the word “borlota” and meant an ornament used in the nets and the horsewhips made of leather, very common in the region. (Beisiegel, 2010:51)

1963 – February to March – The lessons were being given at the same time that happened the continued formation meetings of the coordinators from the Culture’s Circles, reflecting on their practice.

1963 – 2 April – 40th hour (lecture) given by President João Goulart attended by several governors of the Northeast and representatives of the “Aliança para o Progresso”, which also Aluisio Alves, Paulo Freire and the former illiterate Antonio Ferreira spoke. The older student, Maria Hermínia, gave letters written by the participants of the course to the President. Thus was formed the first class of Angicos. At that time was noted the presence of the General Humberto de Alencar Castelo Branco, wearing the Brazilian army’s uniform, commander of the Military Region in Recife, who at the end of the class, would have said to Calazans Fernandes: “Young man, you’ re looking for trouble around here in the Northeast” (Fernandes & Terra, 1994: 18)

1963 – April – With the end of the experience came up the results of the evaluation of the learning experiment of Angicos: 300 participants are considered litterated, with 70% success in the “Teste de Alfabetização” (in English, Literacy Test) and 87% in the “Teste de politização” (in English, Test of politicization) (Lyra, 1996:171 ).

1963 – April-June – The Magazine “Estudos Universitários” (in English, University Studies) from Recife University (number 4), publishes the first studies about the “Paulo Freire System” with essays of Jarbas Maciel, Jomar Muniz de Britto, Aurenice Cardoso, Pierre Furter and an article of Paulo Freire about “Conscientização e Alfabetização” (in English, Awareness and Literacy) in which he refutes criticism from conservative media who accused him of confusing literacy with politicization.

1963 – May – The city of Angicos had its first strike. The rural proprietaries call Paulo Freire’s experience of “communist plague” (Fernandes & Terra, 1994:126).

1963 – 29 May – In a letter to Aluisio Alves, the U.S. Ambassador Lincoln Gordon recommends that the “Program of Angicos to eliminate illiteracy” be adopted in all Brazilian states.

1963 – June – Launch of the film “As Quarenta horas de Angico” (in English, The forty hours of Angicos) of Luiz Lobo, a production of the SECERN, showing the experience of Angicos, a first “phase” of the literacy program, through a “simple, clear and efficient method” which, “finishing the hunger of the head” (Brazilian expression) and “transforming Angicos in a strong community, conscious and enterprising”, form people to “contribute with the highest decisions of the homeland”. 

1963 – 2 June – Echoes of the newspaper The New York Times about the experience of Angicos. To Angicos went many other newspapers such as: Time Magazine, Herald Tribune, Sunday Times, United and Associated Press and Le Monde.

1963 – 18 June – Paulo de Tarso Santos assumes the Ministry of Education exercising the mandate until 21 October 1963. Darcy Ribeiro recommends to his substitute, to call Paulo Freire to Brasilia in order to conceive a national program of literacy based in the experience of Angicos.

1963 – 16 July – Ministerial Ordinance 195 instituted with Office of the Minister of Education the “Comissão de Cultura Popular” (in English, Commission of Popular Culture), “aiming to implement, in national level, new educational systems eminently popular, in order to cover areas not yet reached by benefits of education”. Paulo Freire was appointed chairman of this commission. His first task was to do a research in national level of illiterate’s number to subsidize the future National Program of Literacy. The number of illiterates from 15-45 years, in September 1963, was 20.442.000.

1963 – July – Celso Beisiegel, teacher of the “Centro Regional de Pesquisas Educacionais – CRPE” (in english, Regional Center of Educational Researches – RCER) of São Paulo visits the literacy experience of adults in Angicos observing the operation of the Culture’s Circles in order to realize an experience with the same method in the city of Osasco São Paulo. The visit of Celso Beisiegel to Angicos, together with Walter Esteves Garcia and Luiz Pereira, was to know the experience. The experience of Vila Helena Maria in (Osasco) was an initiative from the students of the Popular Action (PA), who were the leaders of the Students State Union (SSU), those who got in touch directly with Paulo Freire. (Beisiegel, 1974: 171-172).

1963 – 15 to 21 September – Is held in Recife the I National Meeting of Literacy and Popular Culture organized by the MEC, with the participation of educators, artists, politicians, students, workers, unionist, religious, among other actors, who joined in order to transform Brazilian society through education and culture.

1963 – October – A group of U.S. Embassy visits the governor Aluísio Alves, in Natal to prepare the visit of the President John Kennedy to Angicos, dated for December of that year (Kennedy was murdered, in Dallas, on November 22nd of that same year).

1963 – 21 October – Júlio Furquim Sambaqui assumes the Ministry of Education exercising the mandate until 6 April, 1964.

 1963 – Second Semester – The experience of Angicos is taken to other cities: Quintas, Mossoró, Caicó, Macau, Osasco, Belo Horizonte, Goiânia, Brasilia, Aracaju, Porto Alegre and others, as “pilot project” of the National Program of Literacy. Paulo Freire travels the Country structuring the National Program of Literacy which would be officially started in the “Baixada Fluminense” in the Old State of Rio de Janeiro and in Sergipe, in the beginning of 1964. Even before the decree of the creation of the NLP, the Paulo Freire System of literacy was already being applied in many capitals and in the rural area of Alagoas, by the Popular Education Campaign of Paraíba (PECP).

 1964 – 21 January – The Decree number 53.465, of January 21st 1964, institutes the National Program of Literacy consecrating the “Sistema Paulo Freire para alfabetização em tempo rápido” (in English, Paulo Freire System for literacy in quick time). The National Program of Literacy previewed the “cooperation and the services” of “professional and student associations, sports clubs, neighborhood and municipal societies, religious entities, government organizations, civilians and military, employers associations, private companies, broadcasting agencies, the teaching and mobilized all sectors”. Since his first writings and his political-pedagogical praxis, Paulo Freire preview the need of the popular participation in the struggle against illiteracy. The program previewed the creation of 60.870 culture’s circles, each one taking three months of time, in all the unities of the federation to literate, in 1964, 1.834.200 illiterates between 15 to 45 years. The implantation effected itself through “pilots projects” in the South, Southeast, and Northeast region. The (NPL) represented a qualitative leap compared to previous literacy campaigns.

 1964 – 27 January – The MEC designates Paulo Freire and others members to the Special Committee of the National Literacy Program, chaired by the Minister (Decree 72 of 27 February, 1964) The Ordinance No. 92 from 16 March designates Paulo Freire to perform the functions of eventual replacement of the President of the Special Commission.

 1964 – 10 March – The Police of the State of Guanabara, Rio de janeiro, apprehends the textbook of post-literacy “To Live is to Fight” from the Movement of Base Education (MBE), published in 1963.

 1964 – 14 April – Soon after the coup of April 1, 1964, Decree No. 53886 of 14 April 1964, extinguishes the National Literacy Program. Ranieri Mazzilli, President, through this act states that abolished this program considering the need to “restructure the Planning for the elimination of illiteracy in the country” and to “preserve the institutions and traditions of our country.” President João Goulart had marked the official inauguration of the program, symbolically, on 13 May in the main square of the city of Caxias (RJ). On the same date, MEC, through Ordinance 237 “revoked all previous ordinances and publicized by the press, a survey of the used material in the literacy campaign, with an ‘enrollment of a wide photographic equipment, valued at several millions of “cruzeiros” (Brazilian currency at that time) and publications of subversive character’ which would be exposed for visitation next” ( Beisiegel, 1974: 171).

 1964 – 15 April – General Humberto de Alencar Castelo Branco takes office as the president of the Republic.

 1964 – 16 June – Paulo Freire was arrested and spent 70 days in jail of Olinda’s station, accused of “subversive and ignorant.” Detail: in prison, one of the officers responsible for the station, knowing he was a professor, asked Paulo Freire to alphabetize some recruits. Paulo explained that it was just because he wanted to alphabetize people that arrested him. Some of his students were also arrested and have gone through other difficulties after Angicos’ experience, considered “subversive” and later, also extinct.

 1964 – September – Paulo Freire went into exile. After a quick pass through Bolivia, not standing the altitude, in November 1964 embarks to Chile to work at the Instituto de Capacitación y Investigación de la Reforma Agrária – ICIRA (in English, Instituto of Capacitance and Investigation of Agrarian Reform – ICIAR), where he remained until 1969. Only would return to Brazil in late of 1979, and definitely next year.

 1983 – 21 May – During an interview to the University Television of Natal, Paulo Freire affirms: “And one of the exigences that I did was that our relations would be between the University and the Education Secretary and not between any other Representative of the Alliance for the Progress. My idea was the following : “I don’t accept anything from the “Aliança para o Progresso”, but I have nothing against using the money they think is theirs, which is not, because, in the reality, the money of the “Aliança para o Progresso” was the money which returned to Brazil, especially in terms of favor, but our money, our money, the money of this underdeveloped area, which is not only underdeveloped because it is exploited, dominated. So why do not take advantage of this money in return, since we could ensure what to do with it? My position was this: if I have authority over what is going to be done on the project, I don’t want to know if this money comes from the “Aliança” or from the Japanese “(In: Lyra, 1996:182).

 1993 – 28 August – 30 years later, Paulo Freire and his wife Ana Maria Araújo Freire, follewed by two founders of “Instituto Paulo Freire” (in English, Paulo Freire’s Institute) (1991), Carlos Alberto Torres and Moacir Gadotti, visit Angicos, meeting with old students and monitors, among them Marcos Guerra and the former illiterate Antonio Ferreira who, in the historic visit of João Goulart to Angicos, spoke on behalf of his colleagues.

 2002 – Analyzing the “long term effects of literacy method” of Angicos’ experience, Nilcéa Pelandré Lemos (2002), after interviewing students who were literated in 1963, after 34 years, put in evidence that participants learned to write single words and simple and short phrases and also some wrote following their own rules. The most significant knowledge was the increase in self-esteem and awareness of not feeling isolated of the literate world anymore. In this doctoral thesis in linguistics, the author concludes that the secret of the effectiveness of Angicos was the “human promotion, qualified and motivated teachers, and intensive immersion”. Short time, intensive experiences!

 2005 – 3 September – The President of the Republic, Luiz Inácio da Silva, attended the certificate’s giving ceremony of literate of three thousand students from the project “MOVA-Brasil” (Literacy Movement in Brazil), in Angicos. The Project is a partnership between PETROBRAS (Brazilian Oil Company) and the “Federação Única dos Petroleiros” (Federation of Oil Workers) and Instituto Paulo Freire.

 2012-2014 – Celebration of the 50 years of the Angicos’ experiment and the National Program of Literacy. On 6 November 2012 the Minister Aluízio Mercadante creates the Organizing ommission of the Program of commemorations “Paulo Freire – 50 years of Angicos”.


BEISIEGEL, Celso de Rui, 1974. Estado e educação popular. São Paulo: Pioneira.

FERNANDES, Calazans & Antonia Terra, 1994. 40 horas de Esperança: o método Paulo Freire, política e pedagogia na experiência de Angicos. São Paulo: Ática.

FREIRE, Ana Maria Araújo, 2006. Paulo Freire: uma história de vida. Indaiatuba: Villa das Letras.

GADOTTI, Moacir, org., 1996. Paulo Freire: uma biobibliografia. São Paulo: Cortez/Instituto Paulo Freire.

GERHARDT, Heinz Peter, 1982. “Angicos – Rio Grande do Norte – 1962/63”. In: Revista Educação & Sociedade, Ano 4, nº 14, maio de 1983. São Paulo: Cortez/Unicamp.

LYRA, Carlos, 1996. As quarenta horas de Angicos: uma experiência pioneira de educação. São Paulo: Cortez.

MANFREDI, Sílvia Maria, 1981. Política e educação popular: experiências de alfabetização no Brasil com o Método Paulo Freire – 1960/1964. São Paulo: Cortez.

PELANDRÉ, Nilcéa Lemos, 2002. Ensinar e aprender com Paulo Freire: 40 horas 40 anos depois. São Paulo: Corte/Instituto Paulo Freire (Biblioteca freiriana, v. 2).

ROMÃO, José Eustáquio, 2001. “Paulo Freire e o pacto populista” (contextualização). In: Paulo Freire, 2001, Educação e atualidade brasileira. São Paulo: Cortez, pp. XIII-XLVIII).

ROSAS, Paulo, org., 2002. Paulo Freire: educação e transformação social. Recife: Centro Paulo Freire/UFPE.

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