Carter Godwin Woodson Essay

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Carter Godwin Woodson is a pioneer of African and African American history and research. A lifelong bachelor, he openly declared “marriage” to his life’s work of dispelling racist myths perpetuated by White scholars about African Americans and their history.

The oldest of nine children of former slaves, Woodson received sparse formal education prior to entering high school at the age of 20 because he had to work on the family farm and later in the West Virginia coal mines. Bright and focused, he completed the four-year high school curriculum in two years and went on to take a bachelor’s degree from Berea

College in Kentucky and both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Chicago. He then became the second African American to earn a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University in 1912.

Woodson was a high school teacher and principal, college professor and dean, and multilingual world traveler who prolifically wrote and published historical research. Of the sixteen books he authored, The Miseducation of the Negro (1933) became a classic and is a perennial best seller with several hundred thousand copies in print seventy-five years later. It is a testament to the enduring message that an oppressed people cannot depend upon their oppressors for liberatory education. Woodson’s research found that many Negroes who were “educated” to professional status in Eurocentric American institutions were denied full access to American society, exhibited self-defeatist behavior, and returned to their communities less empathetic and committed to the plight of the oppressed.

Woodson established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (1915), founded the Journal of Negro History (1916), the Associated Publishers (1921), and the Negro History Bulletin (1937). In February 1926, he initiated Negro History Week, which later became Black History Month in the 1960s. He believed that correcting American miseducation could not be left to ivory tower scholarship; myths about African inferiority and their lack of contribution to world history must be debunked before the popular masses.

Bibliography:

  1. Durden, R. F. (1998). Carter G. Woodson: Father of African-American history. Springfield, NJ: Enslow.
  2. Goggin, J. (1993). Carter G. Woodson: A life in Black history. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.
  3. Logan, R. M., & Winston, M. R. (Eds.). (1982). Dictionary of American Negro biography. New York: Norton.
  4. Woodson, C. G. (1933). The miseducation of the Negro. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press.

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