Summary Information

Paulo Freire Archive
ca. 1977 to 2009
0.5 Linear feet 1 document box

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Biographical/Historical note

Born on September 19, 1921 to middle class parents in Recife, Brazil, Freire became familiar with poverty and hunger during the 1929 Great Depression. These experiences, though brief, would shape his concerns for the poor and would help to construct his particular educational viewpoint. Eventually his family's misfortunes turned about, and their prospects improved.

Freire enrolled at Law School at the University of Recife in 1943. He also studied philosophy, more specifically phenomenology, and the psychology of language. Although admitted to the legal bar, he never actually practiced law but instead worked as a teacher in secondary schools teaching Portuguese. In 1944, he married Elza Maia Costa de Oliveira, a fellow teacher. The two worked together for the rest of their lives and had five children.

In 1946, Freire was appointed Director of the Department of Education and Culture of the Social Service in the State of Pernambuco, the Brazilian state of which Recife is the capital. Working primarily among the illiterate poor, Freire began to embrace a non-orthodox form of what could be considered [1] liberation theology. In Brazil at that time, literacy was a requirement for voting in presidential elections. Caricature of Paulo Freire.

In 1961, he was appointed director of the Department of Cultural Extension of Recife University, and in 1962 he had the first opportunity for significant application of his theories, when 300 sugarcane workers were taught to read and write in just 45 days. In response to this experiment, the Brazilian government approved the creation of thousands of cultural circles across the country.

In 1964, a military coup put an end to that effort, Freire was imprisoned as a traitor for 70 days. After a brief exile in Bolivia, Freire worked in Chile for five years for the Christian Democratic Agrarian Reform Movement and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. In 1967, Freire published his first book, Education as the Practice of Freedom. He followed this with his most famous book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, first published in Portuguese in 1968.

On the strength of reception of his work, Freire was offered a visiting professorship at Harvard University in 1969. The next year, Pedagogy of the Oppressed was published in both Spanish and English, vastly expanding its reach. Because of the political feud between Freire, a Christian socialist and the successive authoritarian military dictatorships it wasn't published in his own country of Brazil until 1974, when General Ernesto Geisel took control of Brazil and began his process of cultural liberalisation.

After a year in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, Freire moved to Geneva, Switzerland to work as a special education adviser to the World Council of Churches. During this time Freire acted as an advisor on education reform in former Portuguese colonies in Africa, particularly Guinea Bissau and Mozambique.

In 1979, he was able to return to Brazil, and moved back in 1980. Freire joined the Workers' Party (PT) in the city of São Paulo, and acted as a supervisor for its adult literacy project from 1980 to 1986. When the PT prevailed in the municipal elections in 1988, Freire was appointed Secretary of Education for São Paulo.

In 1986, his wife Elza died. Freire married Maria Araújo Freire, who continues with her own educational work.

Freire died of heart failure on May 2, 1997.

(retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paulo_Freire on March, 2, 2009)

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Scope and Contents note

As this is the very beginning of the Paulo Freire Archive, the material that it contains is sparse. There are three folders that contain material from the official opening event for the archive, a photocopy of a speech Freire gave to Santa Ana Community College in 1986 and three pamphlets that collect Freire's thoughts on education.

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Arrangement note


1, Archive official opening event February 25, 2009

2, Speeches March 8, 1986

3, Pamphlets 1975-1985

4, Papers, curriculum vita

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access note

This collection is open for research.

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Controlled Access Headings

Personal Name(s)

  • Freire, Paulo, 1921-1997 -- Archives


  • Critical pedagogy
  • Popular Education -- Philosophy
  • Education -- Philosophy
  • Sociology of education

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