Carter G. Woodson Statue
Carter Godwin Woodson (December 19, 1875 - April 3, 1950) was an African-American historian, author, journalist and the founder of Black History Month. He is considered the first to conduct a scholarly effort to popularize the value of Black History. He recognized and acted upon the importance of a people having an awareness and knowledge of their contributions to humanity and left behind an impressive legacy. Woodson was one of the founders of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and Journal of Negro History. He was a member of the first black fraternity Sigma Pi Phi and also a member of Omega Psi Phi.
Woodson was born in New Canton, Virginia, the son of former slaves James and Eliza Riddle Woodson. His father had helped the Union soldiers during the Civil War, and afterwards moved his family to West Virginia when he heard that Huntington was building a high school for blacks. Coming from a large, poor family, the son Carter Woodson could not regularly attend such schools. Through self-instruction Woodson was able to master the fundamentals of common school subjects by the time he was 17.
Ambitious for more education, Woodson went to Fayette County to earn a living as a miner in the coal fields. He was able to devote only a few months each year to his schooling. In 1895 at the age of twenty, Woodson entered Douglass High School where he received his diploma in less than two years. From 1897 to 1900, Woodson taught in Fayette County. In 1900 he was selected as the principal of Douglass High School. Woodson earned his Bachelor of Literature degree from Berea College in Kentucky.
From 1903 to 1907 Woodson was a school supervisor in the Philippines. He then attended the University of Chicago where he was awarded his M.A. in 1908. From there he became affiliated with Harvard University to complete his Ph.D. in history, which he did in 1912. His doctoral dissertation, The Disruption of Virginia, was based on research he did at the Library of Congress while he taught high school in Washington, DC. After earning his PhD, he started working as a professor at Howard University.
In 1915, Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland co-founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
That schools have set aside a time each year, to focus upon African American history, is Dr. Woodson's most visible legacy. His determination to further the recognition of the Negro in American and world history, however, inspired countless other scholars. Woodson remained focused on his work throughout his life. Many see him as a man of vision and understanding. Although Dr. Woodson was among the ranks of the educated few, he did not feel particularly sentimental about elite educational institutions. The Association and journal which he started in 1915 continue, and both have earned intellectual respect.
Dr. Woodson's other far-reaching activities included the founding in 1920 of the Associated Publishers, the oldest African-American publishing company in the United States. This enabled publication of books concerning blacks which were not as accepted in the rest of the market. He founded Negro History Week in 1926 (now known as Black History Month). He created the Negro History Bulletin, published continuously by the Association since 1937, and developed for teachers in elementary and high school grades. Woodson also influenced the direction and subsidizing of research in African American history by the Association. He wrote numerous articles, monographs and books on Blacks. The Negro in Our History reached its eleventh edition in 1966, when it had sold more than 90,000 copies.
Dr. Woodson's most cherished ambition, a six-volume Encyclopedia Africana, lay incomplete at his death on April 3, 1950 at the age of 74. He is buried at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Suitland-Silver Hill, Maryland.
In 1992, the Library of Congress held an exhibition entitled "Moving Back Barriers: The Legacy of Carter G. Woodson". Woodson had donated 5,000 items from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries to the Library. Dorothy Porter Wesley stated that "Woodson would wrap up his publications, take them to the post office and have dinner at the YMCA." He would teasingly decline her dinner invitations saying, "No, you are trying to marry me off. I am married to my work".
His Washington, D.C. home has been preserved and designated the Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site.
Carter G. Woodson Society Website: