Back in Black

He wrote over 18 books. He received his doctorate in history from Harvard. An organization that he started in 1915 continues to thrive in 2006. All of these accomplishments are the mark of man who never received an education prior to 5 months of high school.

Truly an unparalleled character and spirit, he single-handedly changed how Americans recognize and acknowledge the month of February.

Carter G. Woodson was the son of former slaves. Forfeiting a formal education, he was forced to work in order to help support his large family.

Despite his parents’ inability to read or write, they had a tremendous impact on Woodson’s actions and values throughout his life.

He especially credited his father with his progression.

He was quoted as saying that his father taught him that “learning to accept insult, to compromise on principle, to mislead your fellow man, or to betray your people, is to lose your soul.”

As a result of such a powerful thought, the young boy began to fight against his circumstances.

He taught himself basic reading, writing and math. He had to work until the age of 20, but as soon as the opportunity presented itself, he entered high school. The over-achiever received his diploma within two years.

With a bachelor’s degree in literature, Woodson began to teach, and later became a principal in Virginia.

He studied throughout Europe and Asia receiving a Master of Arts from the University of Chicago.

Enduring all kinds of social injustices that came along with one of the most brutal periods in African-American history, he earned his doctorate in history from Harvard University in 1912.

There had been little to no documentation on black people in America prior to Woodson.

The small amount that did exist was hardly factual and attempted to squander any evidence of their importance to American life.

Dr. Woodson had the cure.

He wrote so many books and articles that both blacks and whites began to pay close attention.

He redefined black history and in 1915 he established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History.

The following year, he launched the Journal of Negro History.

And in 1926, he developed Negro History Week, today referred to as Black History Month.

Noticing so many accomplishments that had been made during this particular month, he chose February.

Woodson often said that he hoped the time would come when Negro History Week would be unnecessary and all Americans would willingly recognize the contributions of black Americans as a legitimate and integral part of the history of this country.

Whether or not his hope has come to fruition, his purpose has not been in vein. Woodson has literally given proof of the relevance of knowing and understanding the past as it relates to blacks in America.

His convictions have allowed the “The Mis-Education of the Negro” to become a household name.

Majoring in African-American Studies is not only acceptable, but honorable because of him. Dr. Carter G. Woodson is an American legend who helped in painting a more accurate portrait of history in America.

Compiled by Kimberly BrownSource:,,