In the 1960s, Brazilian educator Paulo Freire (1921-1997) gained national attention for teaching around 300 illiterate adults to read within 45 days. Freire went on to lead a national literacy campaign with the support of the Brazilian government. Paulo Freire worked early on in literacy courses and was active in Brazil's Catholic grassroots movement. In his pedagogical thinking, he was influenced by the »theology of liberation«. This also meant a strong emphasis on the dialogical principle as developed by Martin Buber (1878-1965). In 1959, Paulo Freire presented his educational concept in his habilitation thesis. A short time later, together with students and progressive intellectuals, he founded the »Movement for Popular Education«.
Freire saw his programme as a step towards democratising the country. His campaign came at a time when the high number of illiterate people in Brazil were not eligible to vote. This made his commitment particularly politically relevant.
In 1962, a large national literacy programme was launched by the government under J. B. M. Goulart, following Freire's method, with the aim of teaching 2 million people to read and write with the help of 20,000 cultural circles.
As the Brazilian military dictatorship began only two years later, Freire could not deepen his work and the project was terminated by force. Freire was placed under house arrest, was arrested and fled into exile in Chile, where he worked as a UNESCO representative until 1968. With his work, he influenced the »Black Consciousness Movement«, a grassroots movement against apartheid that emerged in South Africa in the mid-1960s. Freire's main work »Pedagogy of the Oppressed - Education as the Practice of Freedom« is one of the most cited social science works in the world - even before Marx.