Black History Month: Black History Pioneer Carter G. Woodson

Carter G. Woodson overcame a childhood where he was denied education only to become a well-known educator, author, and historian who became known as the “father of Black history”. He established Negro History Week which later became Black History Month.

Carter G. Woodson

Woodson graduated from Brea College in Kentucky in 1903 with a degree in Literature. He later attended the University of Chicago where he earned additional undergraduate degrees. He received a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University in 1912. He was only the second Black student to earn a doctorate degree from Harvard. The first was W.E. B. Dubois. After graduation, Dr. Woodson began to commit himself to the study of Black or African American history forming along with a group of scholars the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915.  In 1916 he began publishing the Journal of Negro History.

Carter Goodwin Woodson was born in 1875 in New Canton, Virginia.  Both of his parents had been former slaves. He was unable to attend school as a young boy because his parents needed him to work in the coal mines to help support the family. He was primarily self-taught by the time he was finally able to attend high school at the age of 20, where he graduated from in less than two years.  Three years later he was named principal of the school.

After his graduate studies, Woodson became Dean of the School of Liberal Arts at Howard University and later Dean at West Virginia State College.  While in West Virginia, Dr. Woodson founded Associated Publishers as a vehicle to publish scholarly works on Black history and culture. He wrote Negro in our History which became an early text for Black History.

He founded Negro History Week in 1926 to focus attention on the contributions of Black people to American history.  After a long and distinguished career as a historian, author, and educator, Carter G. Woodson died of a heart attack in 1950.  In 1976, President Gerald Ford issued a proclamation that expanded Negro History Week into Black History Month.

Contributed by Adrian Clark, Diversity and Inclusion Officer

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