The period between 1820 and 1850 marks the beginning of the construction and structuring of a public education policy that aimed at educating the people of the province of Minas Gerais. The present article analyzes the relationship between this process and the most expressive segment within the demographic structure of the province at that time, namely, the population of free blacks. In order to conduct this analysis, we have sought reference in a census documentation that attempted to cover the whole population of Minas Gerais districts, making a record of children attending school. Based on these numbers, we built a racial profile of schools, comparing it with information gathered from other documents (teachers' lists, travelers' accounts, memoirs), which pointed to a majority of blacks in elementary schools. The interpretation we give to the presence of blacks in schools of Minas Gerais indicates that this institution was one of the elements utilized by that group to establish their position inside the social sphere. In this respect, the text highlights the fact that schooling acquired specific meanings among the black population; more specifically, it represented their insertion into the literate culture, and a way of signaling their distancing from the world of slavery, and was also a demonstration of their mastery of the codes of conduct of free people.
History of education; Blacks; Minas Gerais; 19th century