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Carter G. Woodson “Father of Black History”

"Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history"

 

Carter G. Woodson was the son of former slaves James and Eliza Riddle Woodson. He born in New Canton, Buckingham County, Virginia, Although his parents could neither read nor write, Carter G. Woodson credits his father for influencing the course of his life. His father supported the family on his earnings as a carpenter. Carter G. Woodson was brought up without the "ordinary comforts of life." He was not able to attend school during much of its five-month session because helping on the farm was more important than going to school.  Carter was determined not to be defeated by this situation, he was able to use self-instruction to learn the fundamentals of regular school subjects by the time he was seventeen.  Thirsty for more knowledge, Carter and his brother Robert Henry moved to Huntington, West Virginia, where they attended the Douglass High School. Carter earned his living as a miner in Fayette County coal fields and was able to attend only a few months each year to school. In 1895, a twenty-year-old Carter entered Douglass High School, where he received his diploma in less than two years.

 

From 1897 to 1900, Carter G. Woodson began teaching in Winona, Fayette County. In 1900, he returned to Huntington to become the principal of Douglass H.S.; he finally received his Bachelor of Literature degree from Berea College, Kentucky. From 1903 to 1907, he was a school supervisor in the Philippines. Later he traveled throughout Europe and Asia and studied at the Sorbonne University in Paris. In 1908, he received his M.A. from the University of Chicago, and in 1912, he received his Ph.D. in history from Harvard University.

 

In 1914 Woodson published ‘The Journal of Negro History”, a year after he and Jesse Moorland formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History ASNLH(which later became the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History). The organization launched Woodson's mission to raise awareness and recognize the importance of Black’s in history. It was his belief that researching and reporting the history about the black race would produce facts that would prove to the world that Africa and its people had played a crucial role in the development of civilization. Woodson recognized the need to increase the awareness about Black’s in history to the general public as well as scholars.

 

In 1921 Woodson also formed the African-American-owned Associated Publishers Press and would go on to write more than a dozen books over the years, including A Century of Negro Migration(1918), The History of the Negro Church (1921), The Negro in Our History (1922) and Mis-Education of the Negro (1933). Mis-Education focused on the Western indoctrination system and African-American self-empowerment is a particularly noted work and has become regularly course adopted by  many universities.

 

Woodson also worked in a number of educational positions, serving as a principal for Washington, D.C.'s Armstrong Manual Training School before working as a college dean at Howard University and the West Virginia Collegiate Institute.

 

Woodson lobbied schools and organizations to participate in a special program to encourage the study of African-American history, which began in February 1926 with Negro History Week. The program was later expanded and renamed Black History Month. Woodson chose February for the initial weeklong celebration to honor the birth months of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln. To help teachers with African-American studies, Woodson later created the Negro History Bulletin in 1937 and also authored literature for elementary and secondary school students.

 

Woodson died on April 3, 1950, a respected and honored figure. Woodson is buried at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Suitland-Silver Hill, Md. His Washington, D.C., home has been preserved as the Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site.

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