The Legacy of Dr. Carter G. Woodson

Carter Godwin Woodson, could have easily fallen victim to the marginalized status afforded the son of freed slaves. Born December 19, 1875, only ten years after legalized slavery had ended, Dr. Woodson’s innate brilliance and capacity for critical thought allowed him to envision the impossible as possible. The first African American of enslaved parentage to earn a doctorate in the United States, and the second to be awarded a doctorate in history from Harvard University, he almost single-handedly pulled African American history from the margins of obscurity.

Dr. Woodson was particularly concerned with social and economic history focusing his lens on the fundamental virtue of African Americans, both as individuals and as an ethnic group. Building on traditions informed by the scholarship of black historians such as William Bell Brown and George Washington Williams, he inspired an entire generation of African American cultural historians including noted Pan-Africanist Rayford W. Logan, and political and social activist Luther Porter Jackson, among others.

His scrupulous documentation, critical analysis of data related to African history and education and the corrective methods he offered to insure its relevancy is evidenced in his seminal volume “The Mis-Education of the Negro,” published in 1933.

His extensive body of work and astute analysis of Negro history and its African origins prompted the intellectual life represented in the Harlem Renaissance, ushered in the era of black studies and also influenced the civil rights, black power and black arts movements. Sixty years after his death on April 3, 1950, his legacy as the Father of Black History still lives on.

Were Dr. Woodson alive today, he would be undaunted by the stereotypes that often undermine young black and brown boys’ potential for greatness. He once noted, “… there is not much discrimination against superior talent.”