Carter G. Woodson – The Father of Black History

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Carter Godwin Woodson as a young man

Known as the Father of Black History, Dr. Carter G. Woodson dedicated his life to preserving the legacy of African Americans.

Carter Goodwin Woodson was born December 19, 1875 in New Canton, Virginia. Most noted as the Father of Black History, Woodson was a member of Sigma Phi Phi, the first black fraternity, as well as a member of Omega Psi phi Fraternity Incorporated.

A Life Devoted to Education

The son of former slaves, Woodson’s father moved their family to West Virginia upon hearing that Huntington was opening up a high school for blacks. Unable to attend school regularly due to the family’s economic situation, Woodson managed to teach himself the basic school subjects by age 17. He then traveled to Fayette County to work as a miner in the coal fields. By 20, Woodson enrolled in Douglass High School receiving his diploma by the age of 22. In 1897, Woodson served as a teacher in Fayette County until 1900 when he became principal of Douglass High School. Woodson went on earn his bachelor and masters degrees, and in 1912, he became the second African-American to earn a PhD from Harvard University, the first being W.E.B. DuBois. Dr. Woodson also taught at Howard University.

In 1915, Dr. Woodson established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and in 1916 began the Journal of Negro History, a scholarly publication. In 2002, the journal was renamed the Journal of African American History and continues its publication through the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. It has never missed an issue.

Black History Month

Dr. Woodson also became involved with the NAACP, however after a disagreement with then president Archibald Grimké over the way suggestions he felt the organization needed to improve, Woodson left terminated his affiliation with the organization in 1915. Continuing to devote his life protection the history of the African-American people, Dr. Woodson through research grew his collection of artifacts and publications. In 1926 he created Negro History Week to be celebrated during the second week of February in honor of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, both of whom were born that month. In 1976 the week was extended to a full month, and aptly renamed Black History Month.

From 1920 through 1940, Dr. Woodson worked with and befriended many other black educators and activists on issues affecting the African-American people, though he was criticized by many for his belief that the history of African-Americans needed to be defined and studied separately from the history of other races.

Carter G. Woodson Publications

Aside from what is now known as Black History Month, Dr. Woodson established in 1920 the Associated Publishers, the oldest African-American publishing company in the United States. He also created the Negro History Bulletin in 1937. Dr. Woodson has written many articles, and books, such as The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 (1815), A Century of Negro Migration (1918), The History of the Negro Church (1921), The Negro in Our History, and The Mis-education of the Negro (1933) among others. In 1950, at the age of 74, Dr. Carter G. Woodson died before completing his six-volume Encyclopedia Africana.

References:

  1. Dr. Carter G Woodson African American Museum
  2. Korey Bowers Brown: Association for the Study of African American Life and History