Knowing where we come from and hearing stories of our ancestry is a pillar in our identities. Dr. Carter G. Woodson certainly agreed, so he made it his mission to ensure that Black history will always be remembered and celebrated!
Woodson was a famous historian who is still known as the “Father of Black History.” His life’s work centered around researching and writing books and articles about the contributions of Black Americans in society. It was through his tireless efforts that “Negro History Week” was established, which has since evolved into Black History Month as we know it today.
Woodson was born in 1875 and worked throughout his childhood as a way to help his family. Though he had a late start on schooling, he thrived academically and graduated high school in just two years before earning his bachelor’s degree from Berea College. He then spent several years working overseas in education, later returning for a master’s degree from the University of Chicago. In 1912, he became the second Black man to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University!
One of the core drivers of Woodson’s work was his belief that Black Americans were missing out on their own history — and not being taught about their heritage or the accomplishments of their ancestors.
So in 1926, he launched the first “Negro History Week,” which he held in February as a nod to Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, whose birthdays were in the same month.
Negro History Week quickly gained traction, to the point where Woodson wasn’t able to supply enough literature and resources to all the schools and organizations asking for them!
Soon enough, efforts were underway to extend the event beyond one short week. In 1976, 50 years after the launch of Negro History Week, President Ford officially declared February to be Black History Month in the U.S.
More recently, Black History Month has been observed in Canada, the U.K, the Netherlands, and Ireland, although not necessarily in the same month.
Woodson’s contribution to Black history extends far beyond this celebratory month! He authored dozens of books and magazine articles, launched publications centered around Black culture, and refused to allow the stories of his ancestors to be forgotten.
What a powerful legacy! Don’t forget to share Woodson’s incredible life and story with your friends.
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