A Brief Biography of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, Founder of Black History Month
To kickoff our activities in celebration of Black History Month, Eastridge is proud to present a biography of Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson who is recognized for his role in establishing Black History Month. Watch this space and follow Eastridge on our social channels for more content on Black and American history.
Dr. Carter G. Woodson was a historian, author, journalist, and the founder of Study of African American Life and History.
Dr. Woodson believed in self-reliance and racial respect. He also believed that if Blacks had education, and better social and professional contacts it would reduce racism amongst Blacks and Whites. Dr. Woodson devoted his life to Black Historian research.
Dr. Woodson worked to preserve the history of the Black Community and accumulated a collection of thousands of artifacts and publications. He noted that African-American contributions "were overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them." Dr. Woodson wanted to make sure "the world see the Negro as a participant rather than as a lay figure in history". He wrote:
"[W]hile the Association welcomes the cooperation of white scholars in certain projects...it proceeds also on the basis that its important objectives can be attained through Negro investigators who are in a position to develop certain aspects of the life and history of the race which cannot otherwise be treated. In the final analysis, this work must be done by Negroes.... The point here is rather that Negroes have the advantage of being able to think black."
Dr. Woodson believed only Black historians could really understand Black history, and fiery debates ensued with the American historical profession in the 1960s–1970s when a younger generation of Black historians asserted that only Black people were qualified to write about Black history. Despite these debates, the need for funding ensured that Dr. Woodson had several white philanthropists such as Julius Rosenwald, George Foster Peabody, and James H. Dillard elected to the board of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Dr. Woodson preferred white financiers, such as Julius Rosenwald, who was willing to support his Association as a silent member.
In February 1926, Dr. Woodson started “Negro Week”. It was the 2nd week of February, marking the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, which later became Black History Month.
Dr. Woodson described the purpose of Negro History Week as:
“It is not so much a Negro History Week as it is a History Week. We should emphasise not Negro History, but the Negro in History. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hatred and religious prejudice”
Hughes-Warrington, Marnie (2000).
Fifty Key Thinkers on History. London: Routledge. ISBN 0415169828.
The idea of a Negro History Week was very popular, and to honor the event, parades, breakfasts, speeches, lectures, poetry readings, banquets and exhibits were held. The Black United Students and Black educators at Kent State university expanded this idea to include an entire month beginning on February 1, 1970. Since 1976, every U.S. president has designated February as Black History Month.