Carter Godwin Woodson
19 December 1875 – 3 April 1950
Years ago, Stevie Wonder put out a song with the lyrics “looking back on when I was a little nappy headed boy…” When I look back, I remember how my mom bought some Black History themed comic books when I was in elementary school. I was a BIG superhero fan, so comic books had (and still have) great appeal. I hoped to have super powers like Spiderman, The Flash, Aquaman and the Incredible Hulk… but that never came to pass. I still have those Black History comic books, my kindergarten report card, and about 3.5 tons of other stuff that I have carted from Michigan to Florida to Arizona, back to Michigan, and back to Florida… (one day, perhaps, I shall be delivered from “packratitis”).
In the photo below, I blocked out my mom’s name (she was a teacher and wrote her name on E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G). I don’t think she would appreciate her name being broadcast out into cyberspace.
It was great to learn Black History via these comic books. Today, I find that I desire to continue learning more about my heritage. We often hear of the “icons” or “stars” of Black History such as Frederick Douglas, Sojourner Truth, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. but how often do we hear about the scholars who help us to learn about this key aspect of American History? I recently learned about the “Father of Black History” – Carter Godwin Woodson.
Carter Woodson was born in 1875 in New Canton, Virginia. He was the first and only black American born of former slaves to earn a PhD in History. He grew up working on his family’s farm and later worked as a day laborer prior to completing his education. At the age of 25, Woodson enrolled in Frederick Douglass High School where he diligently completed 4 years of study in 2 years. Woodson went on to graduate from Berea College in Kentucky in 1903, merely a year before Kentucky passed a law prohibiting interracial education.
Carter Woodson was determined to continue his education, so he began a correspondence program at the University of Chicago, where he earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in History. He entered Harvard University in 1909 and completed his PhD in History in 1912.
Carter founded the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History in 1915 and was the chief editor of the Journal of Negro History which he launched in 1916. He eventually published 8 volumes of this journal. His interest in educating all people about the history of blacks in America led him to launch an annual celebration of Negro History Week in February of 1926, which evolved into Black History Month in 1976. He had established himself as a scholar of African American history by 1937, when he began publishing the Negro History Bulletin.
I first learned about this great American historian when I picked up a copy of his landmark work, The Mis-Education of the Negro. I found the title intriguing, and the contents informational and challenging.
I encourage you today to learn more about this pioneer in American History, – the Father of Black History – Carter Godwin Woodson.
Gates Jr., Henry Louis & Higginbothan, Evelyn Brooks, editors, African American Lives, Oxford University Press: New York, 2004
A Place to Visit: Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum
Written Works of Carter G. Woodson:
(Free or minimal expense)
The Mis-Education of the Negro
The History of the Negro Church
A Century of Negro Migration by Carter Godwin Woodson
The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 by Carter Godwin Woodson
The Journal of Negro History
Volume 1: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/13642
Volume 2: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/20752
Volume 3: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/20906
Volume 4: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/21093
Volume 5: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/23200
Volume 6: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/22149
Volume 7: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/24484
Volume 8: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/44343