Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950), is known as the father of African-American history. He helped popularize the study and knowledge of Africans in the United States.
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Chicago Public Library
Woodson Regional Library
Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature
Dorothy E. Lyles, Compiler
Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.
These are the words of Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson, distinguished Black author, editor, publisher, and historian (December 1875 - April 1950). Carter G. Woodson believed that Blacks should know their past in order to participate intelligently in the affairs in our country. He strongly believed that Black history - which others have tried so diligently to erase - is a firm foundation for young Black Americans to build on in order to become productive citizens of our society.
Known as the "Father of Black History," Carter G. Woodson holds an outstanding position in early 20th century American history. Woodson authored numerous scholarly books on the positive contributions of Blacks to the development of America. He also published many magazine articles analyzing the contributions and role of Black Americans. He reached out to schools and the general public through the establishment of several key organizations and founded Negro History Week (precursor to Black History Month). His message was that Blacks should be proud of their heritage and that other Americans should also understand it.
Carter G. Woodson was born in New Canton, Buckingham County, Virginia, to former slaves Anne Eliza (Riddle) and James Henry Woodson. Although his parents could neither read nor write, Carter G. Woodson credits his father for influencing the course of his life. His father, he later wrote, insisted that "learning to accept insult, to compromise on principle, to mislead your fellow man, or to betray your people, is to lose your soul."
His father supported the family on his earnings as a carpenter. As one of a large and poor family, young Carter G. Woodson was brought up without the "ordinary comforts of life." He was not able to attend school during much of its five-month term because helping on the farm took priority over a formal education. Determined not to be defeated by this setback, Carter was able "largely by self-instruction to master the fundamentals of common school subjects by the time he was seventeen." Ambitious for more education, Carter and his brother Robert Henry moved to Huntington, West Virginia, where they hoped to attend the Douglass High School. However, Carter was forced to earn his living as a miner in Fayette County coal fields and was able to devote only a few months each year to his schooling. In 1895, a twenty-year-old Carter entered Douglass High School, where he received his diploma in less than two years.
From 1897 to 1900, Carter G. Woodson began teaching in Winona, Fayette County. In 1900, he returned to Huntington to become the principal of Douglass H.S.; he finally received his Bachelor of Literature degree from Berea College, Kentucky. From 1903 to 1907, he was a school supervisor in the Philippines. Later he traveled throughout Europe and Asia and studied at the Sorbonne University in Paris. In 1908, he received his M.A. from the University of Chicago, and in 1912, he received his Ph.D. in history from Harvard University.
During his lifetime, Dr. Woodson developed an important philosophy of history. History, he insisted, was not the mere gathering of facts. The object of historical study is to arrive at a reasonable interpretation of the facts. History is more than political and military records of peoples and nations. It must include some description of the social conditions of the period being studied.
Woodson's work endures in the institutions and activities he founded and promoted. In 1915, he and several friends in Chicago established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. The following year, the Journal of Negro History appeared, one of the oldest learned journals in the United States. In 1926, he developed Negro History Week and in 1937 published the first issue of the Negro History Bulletin.
Dr. Woodson often said that he hoped the time would come when Negro History Week would be unnecessary; when all Americans would willingly recognize the contributions of Black Americans as a legitimate and integral part of the history of this country. Dr. Woodson's outstanding historical research influenced others to carry on his work. Among these have been such noted historians as John Hope Franklin, Charles Wesley, and Benjamin Quarles. Whether it's called Black history, Negro history, Afro-American history, or African American history, his philosophy has made the study of Black history a legitimate and acceptable area of intellectual inquiry. Dr. Woodson's concept has given a profound sense of dignity to all Black Americans.
CHRONOLOGY of DR. WOODSON'S LIFE
1875, Dec. 19
Birth, New Canton, Virginia
Left home to work on the railroad and then in the mines
Family moved to Huntington, West Virginia
Attended Douglass High School, Huntington, West Virginia
Attended Berea College, Kentucky
Attended Lincoln University, Pennsylvania
Taught, Winona, West Virginia
Principal, Douglass High School, Huntington, West Virginia
June 18, 1902-Dec. 1903
Attended University of Chicago
Bachelor of Literature from Berea College
Taught in the Philippines
Traveled in Europe and Asia; attended the Sorbonne, Paris, France
Attended University of Chicago
Attended Graduate School, University of Chicago; received B.A. in March; M.A. in August
Attended Harvard University
Taught, M Street (Dunbar) High School, Washington, D.C.
Ph.D. in History from Harvard University
1913 or 1914-1921
Member of the American Negro Academy
The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 published
Established the Association for the Study of Negro Life & History
First Biennial meeting of ASNLH
A Century of Negro Migration published
Principal, Armstrong Manual Training School, Washington, D.C.
Dean, School of Liberal Arts, Howard University
Dean, West Virginia Collegiate Institute (West Virginia State College); Established Associated Publishers
Received grant from the Carnegie Institution; The History of the Negro Church published
The Negro in Our History published
Free Negro Owners of Slaves in the U.S. in 1830: Together with Absentee Ownership of Slaves in the U.S. in 1830 published
Free Negro Heads of Families in the United States in 1830 published
Negro Orators and Their Orations published; The Mind of the Negro as Reflected in Letters Written During the Crisis, 1800-1860published; established Negro History Week; received Spingarn Medal
Appointed to Advisory Committee, Interracial Relations Committee on Problems and Policy Social Science Research Council; appointed staff contributor Dictionary of American Biography
Negro Makers of History published; African Myths: Together with Proverbs published
Attended summer meeting of Social Science Research Council, Dartmouth College
The Negro as a Businessman, with John H. Harmon, Jr. and Arnett G. Lindsay published
Established Woodson Collection at the Library of Congress
The Negro Wage Earner, with Lorenzo Greene published; The Rural Negro published
The encyclopedia controversy
Summers in Europe
The Mis-Education of the Negro published
The Negro Professional Man and the Community, with Special Emphasis on the Physician and the Lawyer published
The Story of the Negro Retold published
The African Background Outlined published
Began publication of the Negro History Bulletin
African Heroes and Heroinespublished
Doctor of Laws from West Virginia State College
1950, April 3
Elected to the Ebony Hall of Fame
Books By Dr. Woodson
-THE EDUCATION OF THE NEGRO PRIOR TO 1861: A HISTORY OF THE EDUCATION OF THE COLORED PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES FROM THE BEGINNING OF SLAVERY TO THE CIVIL WAR. New York: Putnam's, 1915. Repr. Ayer Co., 1968 LC2741.W7
-A CENTURY OF NEGRO MIGRATION. Washington, D.C.: ASNLH., 1918. Repr. Russell, 1969. E185.9.W89
-THE HISTORY OF THE NEGRO CHURCH. Washington, D.C.: Associated Publishers, 1921. BR563.N9W6
-THE NEGRO IN OUR HISTORY. Washington, D.C.: Associated Publishers, 1922. E185.9 .W89 1970
-FREE NEGRO OWNERS OF SLAVES IN THE UNITED STATES IN THE UNITED STATES IN 1830: TOGETHER WITH ABSENTEE OWNERSHIP OF SLAVES IN THE UNITED STATES IN 1830, ed. Washington: ASNLH., 1924; Repr. Negro Univ. Press. E185.W8873
-FREE NEGRO HEADS OF FAMILIES IN THE UNITED STATES IN 1830: TOGETHER WITH BRIEF TREATMENT OF THE FREE NEGRO. Washington: ASNLH., 1925. F185.W887125
-NEGRO ORATORS AND THEIR ORATIONS, ed. Washington: Associated Publishers, 1926. Repr. Russell, 1969. PS663.N4.W6
-THE MIND OF THE NEGRO AS REFLECTED IN LETTERS WRITTEN DURING THE CRISIS, 1800-1860, ed. Washington: ASNLH., 1926. Repr. E185.W8877 1969b
-NEGRO MAKERS OF HISTORY. Washington: Associated Publishers, 1928. E185.W85
-AFRICAN MYTHS TOGETHER WITH PROVERBS: A SUPPLEMENTARY READER COMPOSED OF FOLK TALES FROM VARIOUS PARTS OF AFRICA. Adapted to use of children in the public schools. Washington: Associated Publishers, 1928. PE1127.G4 W7
-THE NEGRO AS A BUSINESSMAN, joint author with John H. Harmon, Jr. and Arnett G. Lindsay. Washington: Associated Publishers, 1929. E185.8.H251
-THE NEGRO WAGE EARNER, joint author with Lorenzo J. Greene. Washington: ASNLH., 1930. Repr. AMS Press. E185.G79
-THE RURAL NEGRO. Washington: ASNLH., 1930. Repr. Russell, 1969. E185.86.W896
-THE MIS-EDUCATION OF THE NEGRO. Washington: Associated Publishers, 1933. Repr. AMS Press, 1972. LC2801.W6 1977
-THE NEGRO PROFESSIONAL MAN AND THE COMMUNITY: WITH SPECIAL EMPHASIS ON THE PHYSICIAN AND THE LAWYER. Washington: ASNLH., 1934 Repr. Negro University Press, 1969. Johnson Reprints E185.82.W88
-THE STORY OF THE NEGRO RETOLD. Washington: Association Publishers, 1935. E185.W898
-THE AFRICAN BACKGROUND OUTLINED. Washington: ASNLH., 1936. DT351.W89
-AFRICAN HEROES AND HEROINES. Washington: Associated Publishers, 1939. DT3525.W66
Periodical Articles by Dr. Carter G. Woodson
-"The Negroes of Cincinnati Prior to the Civil War." Journal of Negro History, 1(January, 1916): 1-22.
-"Freedom and Slavery in Appalachian America." Journal of Negro History, 1(April, 1916): 132-150.
-"The Beginnings of the Miscegenation of the Whites and Blacks." Journal of Negro History, 3(October, 1918): 335-353.
-"Negro Life and History in Our Schools." Journal of Negro History, 4(July, 1919): 273-280.
-"The Relations of Negroes and Indians in Massachusetts." Journal of Negro History, 5(January, 1920): 44-57.
-"Fifty Years of Negro Citizenship as Qualified by the United States Supreme Court." Journal of Negro History, 6(January, 1921): 1-53.
-"Early Negro Education in West Virginia." Journal of Negro History, 7(January, 1922): 23-63.
-"Ten Years of Collecting and Publishing the Records of the Negro." Journal of Negro History, 10(October, 1925): 598-606.
-"Negro History Week." Journal of Negro History, 11(April, 1926): 238.
-"Emma Frances Grayson Merritt." Opportunity, 8(1930): 244-45.
-"15 Outstanding Events in Negro History." Ebony, 5(February, 1950): 42-46.
-"A Health Venture with Negro Management." Southern Workman, 60(1931): 518-24.
-"Journalism in Schools." Howard University Record, 14(may, 1920): 356-366.
-"The Mis-Education of the Negro." Crisis, 38(August, 1931): 266-67.
-"Negro Labor in the United States, 1850-1925." by Charles H. Wesley Ph.D., American Historical Review, 33(1927): 154-56.
-"Some Things Negroes Need to Do." Southern Workman, 51(January, 1922): 33-36.
-"An Accounting of Twenty-Five Years." Journal of Negro History, 25(October, 1940): 422-431.
-"The Anniversary Celebrated." Negro History Bulletin, (June, 1941): 198-199.
-"The Negro in New England." Negro History Bulletin, 5(October, 1945): 421-431.
-"Notes on the Bakongo." Journal of Negro History, 30(October, 1945): 421-431.
-"Egypt." Negro History Bulletin, 13(November, 1949): 39-45; (December, 1949): 62-70; (January, 1950): 95.
-"Thaddeus Stevens: Crusader." Negro History Bulletin, 13(December, 1949): 51-52.
THE CHICAGO DEFENDER
April 16, 1932 "The Difficulty of Learning from the Depression."
-May 21, 1932 "Is the Educated Negro a Liability?"
-June 18, 1932 "Too Much Hindsight; Insufficient Foresight."
-September 17, 1932 "Service Rather than Leadership."
-October 1, 1932 "The Black Man and Europe."
-September 7, 1935 "Future Task of Race History is Outlined."
-December 28, 1935 "More Teachers, Texts, Needed for Growth of Race History."
NEW YORK AGE
-May 30, 1931 "Why Highly Educated Ministers Preach to Benches."
-June 6, 1931 "The Mis-Education of the Negro in Economics."
-June 13, 1931 "Politics in the Schools."
-August 8, 1931 "The Negro Must Appeal to his Own."
-August 15, 1931 "A United Negro Church."
-February 10, 1934 "Distinguished Between Significant and Insignificant."
-February 23, 1935 "Woodson Misquoted on the Church."
-January 4, 1936 "Why the Negro Lacks his Tenth."
-February 22, 1936 "Keeping the Record."
-September 3, 1932 "Independent Thinking and Voting is Needed."
-December 17, 1932 "Women Should Have More Voice in Our Affairs --Woodson."
-December 13, 1924 "Omega Psi Phi Fraternity to Hold Annual Conclave Here."
-December 27-31, "Among the Prominent Omega Men Who Will be Honored at this Smoker 1924 is Carter G. Woodson."
-THE CARTER G. WOODSON COLLECTION OF NEGRO PAPERS AND RELATED DOCUMENTS, 1803-1936, Washington, D.C., Library of Congress
10 reels, 35mm microfilm
Correspondence, diaries, addresses, legal documents, newspaper clippings, and other papers relating to Negro history, the JOURNAL OF NEGRO HISTORY, race relations, slavery, discrimination, Washington, D.C., employment opportunities, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, State and local politics, and business. The papers of Benjamin T. Banner, Whitefield McKinlay, and John T. Clark are included in this collection.
Books About Dr. Woodson
-Goggins, Jacqueline. Carter G. Woodson: A Life in Black History. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1993. E175.5.W65
-Williams, Alvin L. Carter G. Woodson: Scientific Historian of African American History and Education. Unpublished Ph.D. Diss., Loyola University of Chicago, 1994. E185.97.W77W54
Periodical Articles About Dr. Woodson
-"About the Founder." Negro History Bulletin. 23(February, 1960): 120.
-Alexander, R.P. "Tribute and Challenge." Negro Digest. 14(September, 1965): 40-51.
-Behling, Agnes. "The Father of Negro History." Negro Digest. 12(November, 1962): 6-9.
-Bennett, Lerone, Jr. "Chronicles of Black Courage. Father of Black History Changed Vision of Black America." Ebony. 38(February, 1983): 31, 33-34.
-Bennett, Lerone, Jr. "Reading, Riting and Racism." Ebony. 22(March, 1967): 130-38.
-Bethune, Mary. "True Leadership Is Timeless." Negro History Bulletin. 13(May, 1950): 173.
-"Black History: Editorial." Crisis. 82(April, 1975): 113-14.
Brewer, William M.
-"Fiftieth Anniversary of the Journal of Negro History." Journal of Negro History. 51(April, 1966):75-97.
-Brooks, A.N.D. "Dr. Woodson, the Inspiration." Negro History Bulletin. 20(December, 1956): 71.
-"Carter G. Woodson Stamp to be Issue in Honor of Father of Black History." Jet. 65(January 23, 1984): 22.
-"Carter Godwin Woodson, 1875-1950." American Sociological Review. 15(June, 1950): 441.
-Clarke, John H. "Carter G. Woodson and the Importance of Black History Week." Black Collegian. 5(January-February, 1975): 42-43.
-"Death of the Founder." Negro History Bulletin. 13(May, 1950): 170.
-Du Bois, W.E.B. "Editorial: The Journal of Negro History." Crisis. 13(December, 1916): 61.
-Fontaine, William T. "Social Determination in the Writings of Negro Scholars." American Journal of Sociology. 49(January, 1944): 302-313.
-Franklin, J.H. "Place of Carter G. Woodson in American Historiography." Negro History Bulletin. 13(May, 1950): 174.
-"A Great American." Negro History Bulletin. 13(May, 1950): 180.
-"Guardian of the Torch of Black History." Ebony. 35(February, 1980): 94-98.
-Holmes, John Haynes. "On Presenting the Spingarn Medal." Crisis. 32(September, 1926): 231-34.
-Logan, Rayford M. "Phylon Profile VI: Carter G. Woodson." Phylon. 6(4th Quarter, 1945): 315-21.
-Logan, Rayford M. "Carter G. Woodson: Mirror and Molder of his Time, 1875-1950." Journal of Negro History. 58(January, 1973): 1-17.
-Meier, August and Elliot Rudwick. "J. Franklin Jameson, Carter G. Woodson, and the Foundation of Black Historiography." The American Historical Review. 89(October, 1984): 1005-1015.
-"Prophet With Honor." Negro History Bulletin. 17(April, 1954): 168.
-"Newest Member of Hall of Fame. Honor Goes to Historian Carter G. Woodson." Ebony. (February, 1958): 26.
-Stuckey, S. "Du Bois, Woodson and the Spell of Africa." Negro Digest. 16(February, 1967): 20-24.
-Scally, Sister Anthony. "Over the Mountain." Negro History Bulletin. 17(April, 1954): 168.
-White, Alvin. "Godfather of Black History." Sepia. 25(February, 1976): 58-62.
References to Dr. Woodson in Reference Books
-CHRONOLOGICAL HISTORY OF THE NEGRO IN AMERICA, ed. Peter M. Bergman. New York: New American Library, 1969.
-CURRENT BIOGRAPHY: WHO'S NEWS AND WHY 1944. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1944.
-DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY, Supplement Four, 1946-1950, ed. John A. Garraty and Edward T. James. New York: Charles Scribners & Sons, 1974.
-DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN NEGRO BIOGRAPHY, ed. Rayford M. Logan and Michael R. Winston. New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1982.
-ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY, ed. John A. Garraty and Jerome L. Sternstein. New York: Harper, 1974.
-ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BLACK AMERICA, ed. Augustus Low. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1981.
-INTERNATIONAL LIBRARY OF NEGRO LIFE AND HISTORY, Robinson, Wilhelmena B. HISTORICAL NEGRO BIOGRAPHIES. New York: Publishers Co., 1967 [under the auspices of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History.]
-NATIONAL CYCLOPEDIA OF AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. New York: James T. White, 1953. Vol 38.
-NEGRO ALMANAC, ed. Harry A. Ploski and Ernest Kaiser. New York: Bellweather Co., 1971.
-WHO'S WHO IN AMERICA: A BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF NOTABLE -LIVING MEN AND WOMEN IN THE UNITED STATES. Chicago: Marquis, 1926-1950.
-WHO'S WHO IN COLORED AMERICA: A BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF NOTABLE LIVING PERSONS OF NEGRO DESCENT IN THE UNITED STATES. New York: Who's Who in Colored America Corp., 1933, 1937, 1940, 1944.
-WHO WAS WHO IN AMERICA: A COMPANION BIOGRAPHICAL REFERENCE TO WHO'S WHO IN AMERICA, Vol. 3. Chicago: Marquis, 1960.