CARTER GODWIN WOODSON

CARTER GODWIN WOODSON

1875-1950

Carter Woodson, “the Father of Negro History” who employed scientific methods in his research of African-American roots, was bom the first of nine children in New Canton, Virginia. Postponing his education so that he could help support his family, Woodson did not attend school until he was 20 years old. Self-educated, he took one year to earn a high school degree before heading to Berea College in Kentucky.

He completed his first B.A. in 1903 and received his second, plus an M.A., from the University of Chicago in 1908, after taking time off to travel to Europe, Asia and Africa. Completing his Ph.D. at Harvard in 1912, Woodson emerged as a teacher, a his¬ torian, and a brilliant activist determined to inspire African-Americans to embrace and celebrate their own history.

Woodson’s greatest achievement was the formation of a “black historiography,” a body of history proven by the employment of scientific methods and procedures. In his many published works, including The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 (1915), A Century of Negro Migration (1918), The History of the Negro Church (1921) and The African Back¬ ground Outlined (1936), Woodson detailed the history of which he was proud, and inspired his contemporaries to embrace it with the same pride.

Collecting historical documents and publishing them in antholo¬ gies, Woodson brought history to life: Negro Orators and Their Orations (1925), The Mind of the Negro as Reflected in Letters Written During the Crisis, 1800-1860 (1926), The Miseducation of the Negro (1933) and African Heroes and Heroines (1939).

He was also an active organizer. He founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life & History in 1915, and began to publish the Journal of Negro History in 1916. Interested in opening new opportuni¬ ties for education, Woodson established Negro History Week, (which has evolved into Black History Month), in 1926, and began to publish the Negro History Bulletin in 1937, as a tool for educators teaching black history to primary and secondary school chil¬ dren.

Interested in factual details, and the inspirational quality of history, Woodson left many lessons for con¬ temporary educators and activists: “We have a wonderful history behind us….It reads like the history of peo¬ ple in an heroic age….If you read the history of Africa, the history of your ancestors — people of whom you should feel proud— you will realize that they have a history that is worth¬ while. They have traditions that have value of which you can boast and upon which you can base a claim for the right to share in the blessings of democracy….”