Carter G. Woodson

Carter G. Woodson is known as the father of black history and black studies. He worked tirelessly to establish the field of African-American history in the early 1900s, founding the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and its journal. This son of two former slaves, he rose from modest origins to become the respected and groundbreaking historian who founded Negro History Week, today known as Black History Month.

Woodson was not the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. in history from Harvard; that distinction went to W.E.B. Du Bois. But when Woodson graduated in 1912, he embarked on the project of making the history of black Americans both visible and respected. Contemporary conventional historians were white and had a very narrow scope in their historical narratives; one of Woodson’s professors at Harvard, Edward Channing, asserted that “the negro had no history.” Channing was not alone in this sentiment, and U.S. history textbooks and coursework emphasized political history, which covered the history of the white middle-class and affluent men.

Woodson’s first book was on the history of African-American education titled, “The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861,” published in 1915. In his preface, he emphasized the importance and power of the African-American story.


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