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Carter G. Woodson: The Father of Black History Month

Carter G. Woodson

Dr. Carter G. Woodson

Black History Month did not start out as a month-long celebration.

Its founder, noted American historian Carter G. Woodson, first established it as a week-long event in February 1926 for the purpose of honoring the February birth dates of Abraham Lincoln (2/12/1809) and Frederick Douglass (2/20/1818). He also wanted to highlight the accomplishments and contributions of black Americans to U.S. culture.

It was a bold proclamation considering it happened during the Jim Crow era in America, a time known for discriminatory policies, segregation, and the lynching of blacks. 

Woodson declared the week to be: “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.”

Woodson was born the son of former slaves—James Henry and Anne Eliza Woodson—inNew Canton, Virginia, on December 19, 1875. His passion for education and the study of history led him to attain a Letters Degree from Berea College in Berea, Kentucky. From there, he headed north to the University of Chicago, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in History and Master’s Degree in History. 

In 1912, Woodson became the second African-American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard (William Edgar Dubois was the first). He is the only scholar to earn a Ph.D. and be the offspring of slaves.

Woodson was a prolific writer on historical and cultural issues. His seminal work is the “Mis-Education of the Negro,” which chronicles the systemic problems that hamper the full education of the African-American student. First published in 1933, the book remains an important read in the discussion of education to this day.

In 1976, the United States began celebrating Black History for the entire month of February.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson died in his home on April 3, 1950, at the age of 74.

Lake Ridge New Tech Schools will celebrate the month with speeches, student activities, and presentations.