Monday, February 19, 2018

The Father of Black History

The Father of Black History
I was raised by my grandparents Elizabeth and Joseph Woodson in Williamston South Carolina until it was time for me to start school, and every summer after until I was about thirteen.  My grandfather died in 1952 two years after his famous cousin Dr. Carter G. Woodson also known as the “Father of Black History”.

Carter G Woodson was born in New Canton, Virginia on December 19, 1875, his parents James Woodson and Eliza Riddle Woodson had seven children Carter was their fourth child. Young Carter worked as a sharecropper and a miner to help his family, he did not begin high school until his late teens. He was a brilliant student and completed a four year course of study in less than two years.

Carter Woodson attended Berea College in Kentucky for about two years; he left college to work for the United States in the Philippines as an education superintendent. After returning to the United States he continued his studies at the University of Chicago where he earned a bachelor’s and Master’s degree. Woodson went on to become the second African American to receive a Ph.D from Harvard University after W.E.B. Du Bois. Woodson became dedicated to the field of African American history.

In 1915 Dr. Woodson returned to Chicago to participate in a national celebration of the 50th anniversary of emancipation. The exhibits highlighting achievements of Black people since the abolition of slavery inspire Woodson to do more to celebrate black history and heritage. Before leaving Chicago he helped form the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) a year later in 1916 Woodson developed the Journal of Negro History.

In February 1924 Dr. Woodson began his campaign to create a week to celebrate Negro History. Dr. Woodson chose the third week in February in recognition of the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln February 12th and Frederick Douglass February 14th. Douglass was born a slave so his actual birthdate was unknown but he chose the 14th as his birthday.

Negro History week was officially launched in 1926. During the rise of the civil rights movement younger members of ASNLH (which was changed to the Association for the Study of African American History) urged the organization to shift to a month long celebration of black history. In 1976 on the 50th anniversary of the first Negro History Week, the association officially made the shift to Black History Month.

Dr. Woodson in his famous book “The Miseducation of the Negro” writes that “If you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his proper place and will stay in it” My mom Anna Woodson-Rogers often told me about her dad reading to her about black history from The “Negro History Bulletin” a mail order bulletin published by his cousin Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Black history was not taught in schools at that time.  

In this digital age it is still extremely important for members of the African diaspora both young and old to learn and understand their history. “Know Thy Self” is an ancient Kemetic saying inscribed at the entrance of temples of wisdom and ancient mysteries.  I would recommend the Hidden Colors video series produced by Tariq Nasheed for family viewing in celebration of Black History Month.

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