Friday 11 August 2023


Dr. Carter G. Woodson was born in rural New Canton, Virginia in 1875 to formerly enslaved parents who, like many Black Americans, were laborers but lacked access to formal education. Nevertheless, Woodson persisted and earned a high school diploma in 1896. He later completed his undergraduate studies at Berea College in Kentucky in 1903 and earned a master’s degree from the University of Chicago in 1908. Notably, Woodson would also earn a doctorate in history from Harvard University in 1912. Based on his studies, Woodson sought to fill the historical void of representation and recognition for Black people’s contributions to humanity. And, in 1926, building on the already celebrated birthdays of Abraham Lincoln on February 12th and Frederick Douglass on February 14th, founded Negro History Week, the basis for later establishing Black History Month.

In March 1950, Woodson wrote, “It is evident from the numerous calls for orators during Negro History Week that schools and their administrators do not take the study of the Negro seriously enough to use Negro History Week as a short period for demonstrating what the students have learned in their study of the Negro during the whole school year. These mischievous orators, as it has been said again and again in these columns, have no message which they can connect with the celebration of Negro History Week. About the only thing on the Negro which they know is the traditional discussion of the race problem and how it has been or can be solved.”  As Dr. Greg Carr, Associate Professor of Africana Studies and Chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University notes, “Woodson's reminder of the purpose of this annual ritual and his critique how it had already been convered to the opposite of its purpose, written a month before his death in 1950 and published in his Negro History Bulletin. A powerful and prescient reminder.”

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