Birthday: December 19, 1875
Died At Age: 74
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Also Known As: Carter Godwin Woodson
Born Country: United States
Born in: New Canton, Virginia, United States
Famous as: Historian
African American Slaves
father: James Henry Woodson
mother: Anne Eliza (Riddle)
siblings: Robert Woodson
Died on: April 3, 1950
place of death: Shaw, Washington, D.C., United States
U.S. State: Virginia, African-American From Virginia
Cause of Death: Heart Attack
education: Harvard University, The University of Chicago, Berea College, Dunbar High School
Carter Woodson was an African–American historian, author, activist, and professor. He is fondly remembered as the “Father of Black History,” as he initiated the annual celebration of the ‘Negro History Week.’ In the 1970s, it turned into a month-long observance. Through his organization, named the ‘Associaton for the Study of African American Life and History’ (ASALH), he made efforts to highlight the part played by African–Americans in the history of America and other cultures. He is the author and publisher of many books, journals, articles, monographs, and textbooks, which dealt with topics such as the migration, slavery, education, culture, and history of African–Americans. He worked tirelessly for improving the conditions of the oppressed African–American people until his last breath.
Childhood & Early Life
Carter Godwin Woodson was born on December 19, 1875, in New Canton, Virginia, to Anne Eliza (nee, Riddle) and James Henry Woodson.
Both his parents were uneducated former slaves. His father did multiple jobs such as carpentry, farming, and construction, to support his family. He also assisted the Union, also known as the North, during the American Civil War.
Due to the poverty prevalent in the family, Woodson could not attend school regularly and would often work on the farm. However, he was a determined and self-taught boy, who learned most of the school subjects on his own.
At the age of 17, he was compelled to work in the coal mines against his wishes and could only intermittently attend classes at ‘Douglass High School,’ now known as ‘Douglass Junior and Senior High School.’ Back then, this was a freshly opened school for the blacks in Huntington, West Virginia.
Three years later, he enrolled in a full-time course at ‘Douglass High School.’ He earned his diploma in 1987.
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Armed with his diploma, he started working as a teacher and taught at Winona, Fayette County, between 1897 and 1900.
With the turn of the century, he returned to ‘Douglass High School’ and served as its principal until 1903. During the same period, he also received a bachelor’s degree in literature from ‘Berea College,’ Kentucky.
Equipped with a BLitt degree, he ventured into an offshore assignment as a school supervisor in the Philippines until 1907. He also learned by traveling to Europe and Asia. He studied at the ‘Sorbonne University’ in Paris. By 1908, he received both AB and AM degrees from the ‘University of Chicago.’ In 1912, he became the second African–American to earn a PhD (history) from ‘Harvard University.’
Following his doctoral studies, he taught in many schools before joining ‘Howard University’ as a professor. He worked there as the dean of the ‘College of Arts and Sciences.’
Soon, he realized that the contribution of his community and people to the history of America and other regions had not been captured and documented adequately and required immediate attention. Thus, on September 9, 1915, he co-founded the ‘Association for the Study of Negro Life and History,’ along with William D. Hartgrove, George Cleveland Hall, Alexander L. Jackson, and James E. Stamps, to work toward this goal. The organization is currently known as the ‘Association for the Study of African American Life and History’ (ASALH). Thus, he launched his career as a historian. The same year, his ‘The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861’ was published.
In 1916, he began publishing ‘The Journal of Negro History,’ now known as ‘The Journal of African American History.’ He also wrote the book ‘A Century of Negro Migration,’ which was published in 1918.
In the early 1920s, he established ‘Associated Publishers,’ a publishing house dedicated to promoting the works of African–Americans, women, and minorities. His books ‘The History of the Negro Church’ and ‘The Negro in Our History’ were published by ‘Associated Publishers’ in 1921 and 1922, respectively.
He introduced the observation of the second week of February as the ‘Negro History Week’ in 1926. This week was chosen because the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass fell on February 12 and February 14, respectively. They were two heroic men who went to great lengths for the betterment of African–Americans. This event is now celebrated as the ‘Black History Month.’ The inaugural one was celebrated in 1970.
He was bestowed with the ‘Spingam Medal’ by the ‘National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’ in 1926.
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One of his major works, ‘The Mis-Education of the Negro,’ was published in 1933. His other important publications were ‘The Negro Wage Earner (1930),’ ‘The Negro Professional Man and the Community (1934),’ and ‘The African Background Outlined (1936).’
He conceived the ‘Negro History Bulletin’ for high school and elementary teachers in 1937, which is still under publication.
Woodson handled all the operations of the ‘ASALH’ from his home in Washington, D.C. until his death in 1950. He remained an activist advocating for the rights and upliftment of African–Americans for a major part of his adult life.
Family, Personal Life & Death
Woodson was one of the nine children of his parents. It is also reported that he was his mother’s favorite and was always protected.
He never married and had no children.
He died because of a sudden heart attack in his office, which was within the premises of his house, in Washington, D.C., on April 3, 1950. He was 74 at the time of his death.
He is considered the “Father of Black History.”
The ‘Carter G.Woodson Book Award’ was established in 1974.
In 1984, the ‘U.S. Postal Service’ released a 20-cent postal stamp honoring him.
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The book ‘Black History and the Historical Profession,’ co-written by August Meier and Elliott Rudwick, has a chapter dedicated to him.
The ‘Library of Congress’ conducted an exhibition titled ‘Moving Back Barrier: The Legacy of Carter G. Woodson’ in 1992.
Jacqueline Goggin wrote a full biography named ‘Carter G. Woodson: A Life in Black History,’ which was published in 1993.
The home and office where he worked until he died, known as the ‘The Carter G. Woodson Home,’ is now a “National Historic Site.”
Molefi Kete Asante, an African–American professor and philosopher, mentioned him on his list of the “100 Greatest African–Americans.”
On February 1, 2018, the first day of the ‘Black History Month’ that year, ‘Google’ paid their tribute to him with a doodle.
A lot of schools, libraries, academies, museums, avenues, and parks have been named after him.
Woodson was the first and the only African–American born to former slaves to have received a doctorate degree in history.
According to Dorothy Porter Wesley, a librarian and publisher, he declined her dinner invitations by playfully saying, “No, you are trying to marry me off. I am married to my work.”