Carter G. Woodson was born on December 19, 1875 in New Canton, Virginia, a small town in Buckingham County. His parents, James Henry and Anne Eliza Woodson, were ex-slaves who owned a small farm. As a child, Carter G. Woodson, along with his siblings, worked to support the family and was able to attend school only irregularly. In his late teens, he moved to West Virginia, where he labored building railroads and then in a coal mine. Just before his twentieth birthday, Woodson started high school.His quest for knowledge led him to Berea College, Lincoln University, the University of Chicago, the University of Paris, and Harvard University, where he completed his doctorate in history in 1912.
For a decade, Woodson taught in the public schools of Washington, D.C. He served as dean at Howard University and West Virginia Institute before retiring from teaching and administration.
Woodson spent the bulk of his career building the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which he established in 1915. Founded on the idea that people of African descent had to correct the historical record and demonstrate their role in history to take their proper place in the world, the Association established the Journal of Negro, now The Journal of African American History. In 1926, Woodson initiated Negro History Week, which an increasing portion of the world now celebrates as Black History Morth. In 1937, at the urging of Mary McLeod Bethune, he established The Negro History Bulletin, now The Black History Bulletin, for teachers and younger readers. Woodson’s desire to put the truth about peoples of African descent before the world led him to incorporate the Associated Publishers in 1921.
Woodson authored and edited numerous books. They include The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 (1915); A Century of Negro Migration (1918); The Negro Church (1921); The Negro in Our History (1922); The Negro as Businessman (with John H. Harmon, Jr. and Arnett G. Lindsay, 1929); The Negro Wage Earner (with Lorenzo Greene, 1930); The Rural Negro (1930); The Mis-Education of the Negro (1933); The Negro Professional Man and the Community (1934); The African Background Outlined (1936) and several others.
Woodson’s work and intellectual interests carried him from the Phililpines to Africa. In common with many of his generation, Woodson was a Francophile, delighting in French plays and literature. He won numerous awards, including the NAACP’s coveted Spingarn Medal in 1926. Woodson remained a bachelor, and kept close ties with his relatives throughout his life. He passed away on April 3, 1950.
Copyright 2008 by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History -- Founders of Black History Month (TM)