Black History Month Begins

A photograph of a woman and several children, taken in Atlanta, Georgia, around 1920

Carter Godwin Woodson once said, “Those who have no record of what their forebears accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.”

Today, Woodson is considered the Father of African-American history.

When Woodson was a young man, he found that African-American history was almost always ignored – or misrepresented, if it came up at all.

So he decided to do something about that.

He dedicated his life to compiling and recording that history.

And his work led to the creation of Black History Month.

Woodson was born on December 19, 1875, in New Canton, Virginia.

It was just ten years after the abolition of slavery in the United States.

And as the oldest of nine children, Woodson had to work to help support the family, according to historical accounts.

So he didn’t set foot into high school until he was approximately 20 years old!

But he was so smart that he graduated in less than two years.

And he didn’t stop there.

At a time when a tiny minority of African-Americans were going to college, Woodson earned a bachelor’s degree from Berea College in Kentucky; a master’s degree from the University of Chicago; and a doctorate from Harvard University.

That made him one of the most educated men in the country.

But in 1912 – the year that Woodson got his doctorate – discrimination against African-Americans was rampant nationwide.

(“Rampant” means unrestrained or widespread.)

And African-American history was overlooked by most institutions of higher learning.

So Carter Woodson made it his mission to change that.

In 1915, he created a group called the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History.

(“Negro” was the word by African-Americans at the time.)

He also formed his own publishing company.

And he wrote more than a dozen books about African-American history himself.

All the while, he continued to teach and work at universities, including Howard University in Washington, DC – one of the most prestigious historically black universities in the country.

(“Prestigious” means having high status.)

In February 1926, Woodson launched “Negro History Week.”

According to one account, he chose February because it was the birth month of both Abraham Lincoln and the great anti-slavery crusader Frederick Douglass.

By 1976, “Negro History Week” had officially become Black History Month.

Now, every February, people across the country take time to look at the important accomplishments African-Americans have made throughout our nation’s history.

Carter G. Woodson passed away on April 3rd, 1950.

Today, there are schools across the country that bear his name.

After all, Woodson saw education – and hard work – as the keys to a better life for African-Americans.

And he saw a knowledge of African-American history as the foundation of that quest.