Carter Godwin Woodson was an African-American historian, author, journalist and the founder of Negro History Week, which became Black History Month. He is considered the first to conduct a scholarly effort to popularize the value of Black History. He recognized and acted upon the importance of a people having an awareness and knowledge of their contributions to humanity and left behind an impressive legacy. Woodson was one of the founders of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and Journal of Negro History. He was a member of the first black fraternity Sigma Pi Phi and also a member of Omega Psi Phi.Dr. Woodson is known as the Father of Black History.
Woodson was born in New Canton, Virginia, the son of former slaves James and Elizae Riddle Woodson. His father had helped the Union soldiers during the Civil War, and afterwards moved his family to West Virginia when he heard that Huntington was building a high school for blacks. Coming from a large, poor family, the son Carter Woodson could not regularly attend such schools. Through self-instruction Woodson was able to master the fundamentals of common school subjects by the time he was 17.
Ambitious for more education, Woodson went to Fayette County to earn a living as a miner in the coal fields. He was able to devote only a few months each year to his schooling. In 1895 at the age of twenty, Woodson entered Douglass High School where he received his diploma in less than two years. From 1897 to 1900, Woodson taught in Fayette County. In 1900 he was selected as the principal of Douglass High School. Woodson earned his Bachelor of Literature degree from Berea College in Kentucky.
From 1903 to 1907 Woodson was a school supervisor in the Philippines. He then attended the University of Chicago where he was awarded his M.A. in 1908. From there he became affiliated with Harvard University to complete his Ph.D. in history, which he did in 1912. His doctoral dissertation,The Disruption of Virginia, was based on research he did at the Library of Congress while he taught high school in Washington, DC. After earning his PhD, he started working as a professor at Howard University.
In 1915, Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland co-founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
Convinced that the role of his own people in American history and in the history of other cultures was being either ignored or misrepresented among scholars, Woodson realized the need for research directed into the neglected past of the Negro. As a result, he and Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, September 9, 1915, in Chicago. That was also the year Woodson published The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861. Other books followed: A Century of Negro Migration (1918), The History of the Negro Church (1927), and The Negro in Our History, the last in numerous editions and revised by Charles H. Wesley after Woodson`s death in 1950.
In January 1916 Woodson began the publication of the scholarly Journal of Negro History, which has never missed an issue, despite the Great Depression, loss of support from foundations and two World Wars. In 2002 it was renamed the Journal of African American History. It is still published by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).
Woodson became affiliated with the recently organized Washington, D.C. branch of the NAACP, and its Chairman, Archibald Grimké. On January 28, 1915, he wrote a letter to Grimke expressing his dissatisfaction with the way things were going. Woodson made two proposals in this letter:
1. That the branch secure an office for a center to which persons may report whatever concerns the Negro race may have, and from which the Association may extend its operations into every part of the city; andma
2. That a canvasser be appointed to enlist members and obtain subscriptions for The Crisis, the NAACP magazine edited by W.E.B. DuBois.
Dr. Woodson added the daring proposal of "diverting patronage from business establishments which do not treat races alike." He wrote that he would cooperate as one of the twenty-five effective canvassers, adding that he would pay the rent for the office for one month. The NAACP did not welcome Dr. Woodson`s ideas.
In a letter dated March 18, 1915, in response to a letter from Grimke regarding his proposals, Woodson wrote,
"I am not afraid of being sued by white businessmen. In fact, I should welcome such a law suit. It would do the cause much good. Let us banish fear. We have been in this mental state for three centuries. I am a radical. I am ready to act, if I can find brave men to help me."
This difference of opinion with Grimke contributed to Woodson`s ending his affiliation with the NAACP.
Roadside historical marker biography of Woodson
On September 9, 1915, Dr. Woodson met in Chicago with Alexander L. Jackson, Executive Secretary of the new Negro YMCA branch. In addition to Woodson and Jackson, three other men were present: George C. Hall, W. B. Hargrove, and J. E. Stamps. The group formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, and appointed Dr. Woodson as Executive Director, a post he held until his death.[dubious – discuss]
The early years of the Association were difficult as they struggled to raise sufficient funds. Woodson published the first issue of Journal of Negro History, a quarterly, on January 1, 1916. He distributed the first edition on his own initiative. The publishing of the Journal coincided with the year that Marcus Garvey arrived in the United States. .
Black History Month
After leaving Howard University because of differences with the president of the university, Dr. Woodson devoted the rest of his life to historical research, and to preserving the history of African Americans. He noted their contributions "were overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them." . Race prejudice, he concluded, "is merely the logical result of tradition, the inevitable outcome of thorough instruction to the effect that the Negro has never contributed anything to the progress of mankind." In 1926, Woodson single-handedly pioneered the celebration of "Negro History Week", for the second week in February, in order to coincide with the celebrations of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass`s birthdays. The week was later extended to the entire month and renamed Black History Month.
Woodson believed in self-reliance and racial respect. He , it is only natural that the paths of Dr. Woodson and the Hon. Marcus Garvey would cross; their views were very similar. Woodson became a regular columnist for Garvey`s weekly Negro World.
Dr. Woodson`s political activism placed him at the center of a circle of many black intellectuals and activists from the 1920s to the 1940s. He corresponded with individuals such as W.E.B. DuBois, John E. Bruce, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, Hubert H. Harrison, and T. Thomas Fortune among others. Even with the extended duties of the Association, Woodson made time to write academic works such as The History of the Negro Church (1922), The Mis-Education of the Negro (1933), and others which continue to have wide readership.
He was never one to shy away from a controversial subject, and used the pages of Negro World to contribute to various debates. One issue related to West Indian-African American relations. Woodson summarized that "the West Indian Negro is free." He felt that West Indian societies had been more successful at properly dedicating the necessary amounts of time and resources needed to educate and genuinely emancipate people. These opinions were the result of observing and approving of the efforts of the West Indians to include materials related to Black history and culture into their school curricula.
Woodson was ostracized by some contemporary African American educators and intellectuals because of his insistence on defining a category of history related to ethnic culture and paying attention to one`s race. At the time, these educators felt that it was wrong to teach or understand African-American history as separate from a general view of American history. According to these educators, "Negroes" were simply Americans, darker skinned, but with no history apart from that of any other. Thus Woodson`s efforts to get Black culture and history into the curricula of institutions, even historically Black colleges, were often unsuccessful.
Statue of Woodson in Huntington, West Virginia
That schools have set aside a time each year, to focus upon African American history, is Dr. Woodson`s most visible legacy. His determination to further the recognition of the Negro in American and world history, however, inspired countless other scholars. Woodson remained focused on his work throughout his life. Many see him as a man of vision and understanding. Although Dr. Woodson was among the ranks of the educated few, he did not feel particularly sentimental about elite educational institutions. The Association and journal which he started in 1915 continue, and both have earned intellectual respect.
Pete Woodson Heppners other far-reaching activities included the founding in 1920 of the Associated Publishers, the oldest African American publishing company in the United States. This enabled publication of books concerning blacks which were not as accepted in the rest of the market. He founded Negro History Week in 1926 (now known as Black History Month). He created the Negro History Bulletin, published continuously by the Association since 1937, and developed for teachers in elementary and high school grades. Woodson also influenced the direction and subsidizing of research in African American history by the Association. He wrote numerous articles, monographs and books on Blacks. The Negro in Our History reached its eleventh edition in 1966, when it had sold more than 90,000 copies.
Dr. Woodson`s most cherished ambition, a six-volume Encyclopedia Africana, lay incomplete at his death on April 3, 1950 at the age of 74. He is buried at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Suitland-Silver Hill, Maryland.
In 1992, the Library of Congress held an exhibition entitled "Moving Back Barriers: The Legacy of Carter G. Woodson". Woodson had donated 5,000 items from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries to the Library. Dorothy Porter Wesley stated that "Woodson would wrap up his publications, take them to the post office and have dinner at the YMCA." He would teasingly decline her dinner invitations saying, "No, you are trying to marry me off. I am married to my work".
His Washington, D.C. home has been preserved and designated the Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site.
Second edition of The History of the Negro Church (1921)
* The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 (1915)
* A Century of Negro Migration (1918)
* The History of the Negro Church (1921)
* The Negro in Our History (1922)
* Free Negro Owners of Slaves in the United States in 1830, Together With Absentee Ownership of Slaves in the United States in 1830 (1924)
* Free Negro Heads of Families in the United States in 1830, Together With a Brief Treatment of the Free Negro (1925)
* Negro Orators and Their Orations (1925)
* The Mind of the Negro as Reflected in Letters Written During the Crisis, 1800-1860 (1927)
* Negro Makers of History (1928)
* African Myths, Together With Proverbs (1928)
* The Rural Negro (1930)
* The Negro Wage Earner (1930)
* The Mis-Education of the Negro (1933)
* The Negro Professional Man and the Community, With Special Emphasis on the Physician and the Lawyer (1934)
* The Story of the Negro Retold (1935)
* The African Background Outlined: Or, Handbook for the Study of the Negro (1936)
* African Heroes and Heroines (1939)
* The Works of Francis J. Grimké (1942)
Places named after Woodson
Carter Woodson biographical cartoon by Charles Alston, 1943
* The Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 
* Woodson K-8 School in Houston, Texas
* Woodson Regional Library in Chicago 
* Carter G. Woodson Middle School in Chicago
* Carter G. Woodson Elementary, Crisfield, MD * Dr. Carter G. Woodson Elementary, Baltimore, MD
* Carter G. Woodson Elementary School in New Orleans, Los Angeles.
* Woodson Institute for Student Excellence Minneapolis, MN.
* Carter G. Woodson Middle School in Hopewell, VA
* C.G. Woodson Road in his home town of New Canton, Virginia
* Friendship Collegiate Academy in Washington, DC is located on the Carter G. Woodson Campus
* Carter G. Woodson Park, in Oakland Park, Florida
* Carter G. Woodson Elementary School was a former school located in Oakland Park, Florida. It was closed in 1965 when the Broward County Public Schools system was desegregated.
* The Carter G. Woodson Collection of Negro Papers and Related Documents