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Table of Contents
Carter G. Woodson was an African-American author, journalist, and historian known for studying the African diaspora and launching the Negro History Week in 1926, now known as Black History Month.
See the fact file below for more information on Carter G. Woodson or alternatively, you can download our comprehensive worksheet pack to utilize within the classroom or home environment.
- Carter Godwin Woodson was born on December 19, 1875, in New Canton, Virginia. He was the fourth child of Anna Eliza Riddle and James Woodson, both freed enslaved people. Carter’s father helped the Union soldiers during the American Civil War.
- Young Carter worked as a sharecropper and driver of a garbage truck to help his family. Because of his family’s impoverished living, Carter had little time to pursue education. At 17, he worked in the coal mines in West Virginia.
- In 1897, he received a diploma after attending Douglass High School. Between 1897 and 1900, Woodson worked as a teacher in Winona, West Virginia. By 1900, he was appointed as principal of the Douglass High School.
- In 1903, he earned his bachelor’s degree in Literature at Berea College in Kentucky.
- From late 1903 until early 1907, Woodson worked under the U.S. War Department and was sent to the Philippines as an education supervisor.
- Woodson traveled to parts of Asia, Europe, and Africa. By 1908, he received his Master’s degree in History, Literature, and Romance Languages from the University of Chicago.
- In 1912, he became the second African-American Ph.D. graduate of Harvard University after W.E.B Du Bois.
Woodson’s Dedication to African-American History
- In 1915, Woodson published his first book entitled The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861, which was evaluated by the New York Times. His book tackled the history of black people in the United States from the era of slavery until the outbreak of the Civil War.
- That same year, while attending the Exposition of Negro Progress in Chicago, he co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) along with William Hartgrove, Alexander L. Jackson, James E. Stamps, and George Cleveland.
- Despite the claim of some African-American scholars that only Black historians could understand Black history, Woodson welcomed white philanthropists such as James Dillard, Julius Rosenwald, and George Foster Peabody to be board members of ASNLH. Woodson focused on studying the history of African-Americans, which scholars had neglected in the past.
- Funded and supported by white philanthropists, Woodson hired young African-American scholars such as Rayford Logan, Charles Wesley, Lorenzo Green, and Luther Porter Jackson to publish more articles about African-American life.
- Woodson believed that the increasing professional meetings and associations of African-Americans and white people could reduce racism.
- In 1916, Woodson established the publication The Journal of Negro History, now known as The Journal of African-American History (JAAH). After two years, he published the A Century of Negro Migration.
- Woodson strongly believed that scientific study, research, and methodology effectively presented the life and history of African-Americans. He urged African-American civic leaders, educators, women’s groups, and clergy members to understand African-American history better.
- Alongside publishing, Woodson served as the principal of Armstrong Manual Training School in Washington D.C. In addition, he became the dean of Howard University’s School of Liberal Arts and West Virginia Collegiate Institute in 1919 and 1920, respectively.
- In 1918, he published A Century of Negro Migration, and The History of Negro Church was published in 1921. He also established the Associated Publishers Press the same year.
- Woodson became an active member of African-American organizations such as the NAACP, the National Urban League, Friends of the Negro Freedom, and the Committee of 200.
- In 1922, Woodson published The Negro in Our History. He also penned literary books for elementary and high school students.
- In February 1926, Woodson encouraged schools and organizations to promote the study of African-American history that marked Negro History Week. It was celebrated during the second week of February in commemorating famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass (20 February) and emancipator U.S. President Abraham Lincoln (12 February). He wrote the purpose of the Negro History Week as “It is not so much a Negro History Week as it is a History Week. We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in History. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hatred, and religious prejudice.”
- The Negro History Week was honored with parades, lectures, speeches, banquets, poetry reading, and exhibits. He is regarded as the “Father of Black History.”
- Furthermore, Woodson created The Negro History Bulletin in 1937 and conducted several talks urging the African-American community to continue with events for Negro
- In 1933, he published his famous book Mis-education of the Negro, which focused on African-American self-empowerment amidst western indoctrination. Woodson was an outspoken critic of the Christian Church for promising African-Americans limited opportunities because of race.
Legacy and Death
- Woodson shared the values of self-reliance and respect with Jamaican activist and leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, Marcus Garvey. Garvey believed that African-Americans’ ultimate objective was to return to Africa. He advised African-Americans in the US to embrace segregation as race relations would always exist.
- Woodson cut his ties with Garvey and the Negro World upon knowing the latter’s meeting with the Ku Klux Klan, a white extremist group.
- Between the 1920s and the 1940s, Woodson corresponded with other known civil rights activists such as W.E.B Du Bois, Hubert Harrison, T. Thomas Fortune, and John E. Bruce. His works used an interdisciplinary approach combining history, sociology, and anthropology. Woodson used public records, speeches, autobiographies, and letters in substantiating his works.
- On April 30, 1950, Carter G. Woodson died of a heart attack in his home in Shaw, Washington, D.C. He was buried at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Maryland.
- He wrote more than 20 books and co-authored and edited numerous books throughout his life. Woodson wanted to ensure the intellectual survival of African-American history through publications. At the time of his death, he was working on a six-volume Encyclopedia Africana.
- In February 1970, the first Black History Month was celebrated at Kent State.
- By 1976, U.S. President Gerald Ford urged Americans to nationally celebrate the contributions of African-Americans to U.S. history by designating February as Black History Month.
- President Ronald Reagan stated that “understanding the history of Black Americans is a key to understanding the strength of our nation.”
- In 1984, a 20-cent stamp honoring Woodson was issued by the US Postal Service.
- In 1987, Black History Month was first celebrated in London and Canada in 1995.
- In honor of him, the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African-American Museum was built in St. Petersburg, Florida. In addition, the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies was established at the University of Virginia.
- Parks, schools, and museums, in California, Florida, West Virginia, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, New York, Minnesota, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Washington, D.C were named after Carter G. Woodson.
Carter G. Woodson Worksheets
This bundle includes 11 ready-to-use Carter G. Woodson worksheets that are perfect for students to learn about Carter G. Woodson who was an African-American writer and historian who initiated Negro History Week in 1926.
This download includes the following worksheets:
- Carter G. Woodson Facts
- Father of Black History
- Abolitionist and Emancipator Profile
- Woodson’s Journey
- Key to African-American History
- History of Black Americans
- Carter Says
- Woodson’s Ws
- Game Changers
- Color of Freedom
- Black History Month
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Carter G Woodson famous for?
Carter G. Woodson was a scholar who devoted himself to celebrating the historic contributions of Black people. This led to the establishment of Black History Month, which has been marked every February since 1976.
How did Carter G Woodson make a difference?
Carter G. Woodson devoted his life to educating African Americans about their accomplishments and how they contributed to society. In 1915, he went from Washington D.C. to Chicago for a national celebration commemorating 50 years of freedom since emancipation.
Why did Carter Woodson create Black History Month?
On February 7, 1926, Carter G. Woodson began Negro History Week to emphasize the importance of studying and celebrating African American history year-round.
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