Carter G. Woodson: The father of Black History Month
JASMIN K. WILLIAMS Amsterdam News Staff | 3/1/2013, 1:32 p.m.
That same year, Woodson, along with Alexander L. Jackson and three other colleagues, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which is now called the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History (ASALH). ASALH created the periodical the Journal of Negro History, which Woodson edited. The publication remained an important historical reference on the subject for more than 30 years. The Journal of Negro History in 1916 and the Negro History Bulletin in 1937 became important publications for Black scholars.
In 1926, Woodson made his most enduring contribution. He started Negro History Week, which took place during the second week of February. Why February? No, not because it's the shortest month of the year. Woodson chose it because it's the birth month of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, President Abraham Lincoln and writer Langston Hughes. The NAACP was also founded in February.
Woodson devoted his life to historic research and working to preserve the history of African people. He collected thousands of artifacts and publications that proved how the contributions of Black people had been long ignored, overlooked and suppressed by historians and teachers.
He hoped that, in time, all Americans would recognize the contributions of Blacks and that Negro History Week would no longer be needed. In the meantime, he hoped the observance would be a source of pride for Blacks and a source of understanding for whites.
Woodson wrote more than 125 articles and authored more than 30 books, the most famous of which is "The Mis-Education of the Negro," written in 1933. He forged a path for critical thinking and a thirst for knowledge that scholars like Arthur Schomburg and John Henrik Clarke and others would continue to follow.
"The 'educated Negroes' have the attitude of contempt toward their own people because in their own, as well as in their mixed schools, Negroes are taught to admire the Hebrew, the Greek, the Latin and the Teuton and to despise the African," wrote Woodson in "The Mis-Education of the Negro."
"Race prejudice," he concluded, "is merely the logical result of tradition, the inevitable outcome of thorough instruction to the effect that the Negro has never contributed anything to the progress of mankind. Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history." Thanks to his lifelong dedication to the education and of African-Americans, we do.
Carter G. Woodson died on April 3, 1950.
In 1976, the observance of Negro History Week was extended to the entire month of February and the name was officially changed to Black History Month. Though just 28 days long, Black History Month is a time to learn about and celebrate the accomplishments and contributions made by people of African descent, not only to the history and building of this country, but to world history.
- Look it up: Use the Internet or another reference source to learn more about Carter Godwin Woodson and the observance of Black History Month. Visit your local library and read his book, "The Mis-Education of the Negro."
- Talk About It: Have a discussion with your classmates about the life and work of Carter G. Woodson and the importance of Black History Month. Why is this an important observation for all races of people? What challenges do you think Woodson faced? After reading "The Mis-Education of the Negro," discuss what you've learned from the book with your classmates.
- Write it Down: Pick three Black history subjects. These could be people, places or events. Try to choose subjects that are not commonly known. Research your choices and write an essay on each subject, including its relationship to and effect on world history. Use this as an opportunity to learn something new and share your findings with your classmates.
This Week in Black History
- Feb. 25, 1971: President Nixon meets with the Congressional Black Caucus and appoints a White House panel to address their concerns.
- Feb. 26, 1926: Negro History Week is observed for the first time.
- Feb. 28, 1984: Michael Jackson's "Thriller" wins eight Grammy Awards and breaks all previous sales records. To date it remains one of the top grossing albums of all time.
- Feb. 29, 1940: Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African-American to win an Academy Award for her role as "Mammy" in the movie "Gone With the Wind."