“Forty Hours of Hope”: An Analysis of Paulo Freire’s 1963 Literacy Program in Angicos

  • Author / Creator
    Mendoza, Amanda L
  • This thesis explores the results of and claims made about the experimental 1963 literacy program operated in the small Brazilian town of Angicos, Rio Grande do Norte. This program was where the renowned pedagogue Paulo Freire’s literacy methods were first attempted at a large scale using government funding to teach nearly 300 adults and adolescents how to read and write in a mere forty hours of instruction. Freire’s program utilized what is known as the Paulo Freire Method, wherein instructors taught literacy using images and vocabulary that were determined to be culturally significant to the communities in which courses took place. Through these lessons, instructors would not only aim to provide students with basic literacy skills but with political consciousness and a desire to participate in the democratic system. The program claimed to have had resounding success, leading to the creation of plans to establish Freirean literacy courses, known as culture circles, all over the nation. However, shortly after the program’s close, it was deemed to have been bathed in Marxist ideology, promoting subversion among its students. As Cold War political tensions continued to heat up in the country, reaching their peak at the military coup of 1964, the expansion of culture circles was forced to halt and Freire, along with many instructors of his craft, was sent into exile.
    Despite the political reaction caused by this program, Freire’s method continues to be used in the country today, where his name is celebrated as the patron saint of education. Yet, the experience in Angicos, while being the first of many successes in Freirean education, is largely unknown by the Brazilian public. This thesis considers the lofty claims of this program’s success through a critical lens, contributing to the limited scholarly conversation on the Cold War forces at play during the course’s operation. Throughout my research, I argue that the claims made about this program cannot be separated from the political narratives they served historically. Beyond this, I interpret the achievements of the program along with its limitations, paying close attention to its class-centric interpretation of oppression to unite the people of Angicos. Through examining didactic materials, diary entries, newspaper articles, government documents, and secondary scholarship, I provide a historical analysis of the Forty Hours of Angicos that provides important emphasis on the Cold War political context that shaped accounts of the program’s results.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2023
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.