Civil Rights Tour: Education - Carter G. Woodson, Father of Black History

1538 9th Street NW

"If a race has no history, it has no worth-while tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated…"
(Carter G. Woodson, 1926)

Carter G. Woodson, Ph.D. devoted his life to establishing and advancing the field of Black history. By creating, collecting and widely distributing scholarship authored by and about African Americans, Woodson asserted the existence of a black past that was integral to American history. As a public scholar committed to reaching beyond the academy, he frequently spoke to young audiences and penned columns for major black newspapers.

His 1926 establishment of Negro History Week, now Black History Month, ensured that the rich history of Africans and their descendants was taught in schools nationwide. Woodson (1875-1950) was born in Buckingham County, Virginia, to formerly enslaved parents. His pursuit of an education took him to schools in West Virginia and Kentucky, as well as the Sorbonne, the University of Chicago, and finally Harvard University, where in 1912 he earned his Ph.D. (as the second African American to do so, following W.E.B. DuBois). While researching his dissertation in Washington, Woodson began teaching in the “colored” division of the city’s public schools, then joined the Howard University faculty.

In 1919-1920, Woodson served as dean of the School of Liberal Arts and head of the Graduate Faculty at Howard University. In collaboration with other scholars, Woodson founded what is now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History in 1915 and the Journal of African-American History in 1916; Associated Publishers in 1921; and Negro History Bulletin in 1937. He was also a member of the Niagara Movement and a regular columnist for Negro World, published by Marcus Garvey. Woodson wrote and edited numerous academic and popular articles and nearly 20 books. His The Mis-education of the Negro (1933), written just after Woodson severed ties with white philanthropists, has influenced generations of scholars, activists, and artists.

Woodson purchased 1538 9th Street in 1915 and used it as his residence and office. The Carter G. Woodson Home is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is a National Historic Site.

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