“The hope for success in promoting the whole truth about our race lies with open-minded school administrators.”
This statement, spoken over 70 years ago by Carter G. Woodson (the father of Negro history), still rings true today.
When I attended Berkeley High School in 1981, we had the only African-American Studies Department on a public high school campus in the country. When I think about Black History Month, my experiences at Berkeley High make me realize how fortunate I was to be exposed to African American Studies. I’m a rare individual and so was Carter G. Woodson.
Carter G. Woodson educated himself so he could educate others. His own schooling proceeded slowly, because he had to work to support himself. However, throughout his life Dr. Woodson interspersed work as a coal miner with education and traveling the world.
Woodson was born on Dec. 19, 1875, in the rural town of New Canton, Va. As a youngster he taught himself fundamental education until he was on a par with public school students. After high school, he spent summers studying at the University of Chicago, where he obtained a B.A. in 1907.
In 1908 he traveled and studied in Asia and Europe, including one semester at the Sorbonne in Paris, where he gained fluency in French. He finished his formal education with a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1912.
Woodson’s major was history and the historical role played by black people. He wrote of a long hidden history and hoped to lift the veil of ignorance from all people. For this purpose he published the Journal of Negro History and The Negro Bulletin as well as several books. His most popular was The Miseducation of the Negro.
In 1926, with his organization, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, Carter G. Woodson inaugurated Negro History Week, which today has evolved into Black History Month. We owe this time of celebrating black accomplishments to the contribution of this singular scholar.
Black history is American history and all Americans should participate in learning about a people and culture that is still largely missing from our school history books. This learning process should not be limited to one month, but 365 days a year.