Gonçalves started his career in São Paulo, in an amateur group. As he moved to a professional group, he met Augusto Boal, who was looking for an actor to play an old black man. Joining Boal's Teatro de Arena, Milton Gonçalves found an open environment for political, philosophical and artistic discussion, where he was not discriminated for his race.
Gonçalves wrote four plays, one of which was staged by the Teatro Experimental do Negro and directed by Dalmo Ferreira. "There I learnt everything I know about Theater. It was fundamental for my comprehension of the world."
A Black Movement activist, Milton Gonçalves tried a political career, in the 1990s, as a candidate to Rio de Janeiro state governorship.
Father of actor Maurício Gonçalves, he is married to Oda Gonçalves since 1966.