- Faith & Family
Every Black boy and girl should know the story of Carter Godwin Woodson and recognize the contributions he made to our nation and to the world. He may not have the kind of reputation or name recognition as someone like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but he made an indelible contribution to the lives and future of Blacks in America.
Our annual celebration of Black history every February may never have occurred had it not been for the innovative efforts of Woodson. After founding “The Journal of Negro History” in 1916, he pushed for Negro History Week, which started in 1926. He chose February because the month held the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Booker T. Washington. As time went on, the week would expand into a monthly observance and is now referred to as Black History Month.
Woodson, along with his academic colleagues, was first and foremost an energetic advocate for the study of Black history as its own field. He knew that as long as we allowed others to tell our story, that they would continue to insert their own prejudices and biases, writing inaccurate reports to suit a mindset of white superiority.
What is more incredible about Woodson’s many achievements is that he rose to such heights after being born in the home of two former slaves — capturing degrees from the University of Chicago, studying at the Sorbonne in Paris and completing his doctorate in history from Harvard in 1912. We can only imagine the opposition he faced, despite his intellectual abilities, simply because of the color of his skin.
Woodson used the study of history as a spark for social activism — a strategy that progressive Blacks may want to try today. Every young adult should read his seminal text, “The Mis-Education of the Negro (1933) whose premise has become self-fulfilling prophecy: Blacks must be prepared to teach the coming generations and empower them with the true story and accurate history that reflects the greatness of our ancestors.