The life and legacy of Carter G. Woodson - by Dr. Greg Kimathi Carr

Dr. Carter G. Woodson - Black Trailblazers

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The Father of Black History

Dr. Carter G. Woodson  1875 - 1950

History is simply the recording of time.  Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson realized that blacks past contribution to America had to be recorded and taught.  To achieve this goal, he started Black History Week.

Woodson was born in New Canton, Virginia, on December 19, 1875.  His parents, James and Anne Eliza Woodson, were ex-slaves and had nine children.  Woodson, who was the oldest child, came from a very poor family.  He worked in the coal mines for very low pay.  When the family decided to move to Fayette, Virginia, young Woodson was able to attend Douglass High.  He graduated in less than two years.  Next, he entered Berea College in Kentucky.

In 1900, Woodson returned as Douglass High School's principal for three years.  He also took college courses by mail and attended summer school at the University of Chicago.  He received a bachelor's degree in 1907, and a master's degree in 1908.

From 1903 to 1909, Woodson was in charge of schools in the Philippines. He also traveled to Asia, North Africa, and Europe.  Even while traveling, Woodson continued to complete his college courses.  He also learned to speak Spanish and French.  Returning to the United States, Woodson attended Harvard University.  From 1909 to 1918, he taught History, English, Spanish, and French at Dunbar High School in Washington D.C.  While teaching and going to school, he also received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1912.

Through research, Dr. Woodson found out that black people had a great past.  He also saw that black accomplishments were ignored in American history books.  He strongly felt that black achievements had to be taught for greater understanding by both races.  He believed that "young blacks would grow up with a firm knowledge of their ancestors."  His book, The Negro In Our History, became one of the most popular textbooks used in high schools and colleges.

In 1915, Dr. Woodson started the Association for the Study of Negro Life and history (ASNLH).  His purpose was to promote the study and teaching of Black History.  In his efforts to reach his goal, Dr. Woodson was often laughed at.  He had to make many sacrifices, and he was badly in need of money to continue his research.  He often tried to get companies to donate money.  He needed money to pay staff, buy books and materials, and publish his work.  The organization later became the Association for the Study of Afro American Life and History (ASALH).

In 1916, The Journal Of Negro History, a newspaper published every three months, was started.  Dr. Woodson served as the paper's first director and editor.  From 1919 to 1920, Dr. Woodson served as the Dean of Graduate Studies at Howard University in Washington D.C.  For the next two years, he was the Dean of West Virginia Collegiate Institute.  In 1922, he retired from teaching and spent the rest of his life writing and giving lectures on Black History.

In 1926, Dr. Woodson started the Negro History Week.  The Association of Afro American Life and History (ASALH) continued Dr. Woodson's work.  Through the efforts of the ASALH, Negro History Week became Black History Month in 1976.

On April 3, 1950, Dr. Carter G. Woodson died.  However, the "Father of Black History" is respectfully remembered, and his wisdom and teachings remain with us even today.

Exerpt from A Gift of Heritage Historic Black Pioneers

This is only a summary of the life of the "Father of Black History"  Carter G. Woodson.