The first Brazilian Constitution was promulgated in 1824. One of its provisions was the elimination of guilds. In Recife, "Irmandade de São José do Ribamar," which gathered masons, carpenters, coopers and caulkers lost their monopoly over the practice and teaching of their professions. The master carpenter José Vicente Ferreira Barros was a black freeman born in Pernambuco and an honored member of the São José de Ribamar lay religious brotherhood who felt the loss of guild privileges. In 1836, he led an effort to regain lost privileges through the creation of a mutual aid society constituted by free and dark-skinned master craftsmen. The new organization aligned itself with ideas of "civilization" and "progress" which helped Ferreira Barros gain favors and establish close ties to members of Pernambuco's elite. These ties helped Ferreira Barros' three sons achieve upward social mobility. Notwithstanding the Brazilian elitist education system, João dos Santos Ferreira Barros, José Vicente Ferreira Barros Junior and Antonio Basílio Ferreira Barros earned high school diplomas and the latter even attended the elitist Faculdade de Direito do Recife (Recife Law School). João dos Santos became a respected master builder who officials named director of Pernambuco's Lyceum of Construction, Arts, and Crafts. José Vicente Junior and Antonio Basílio became teachers in public elementary schools. This article uses the Ferreira Barros' family history as a window on the struggles for citizenship that were waged by skilled black workers in nineteenth century Brazil.