Dr. Carter G. Woodson is dubbed "the father of Black History," not just because he is the one who lobbied for the celebration of Negro History Week (now Black History Month), but because as an historical, author, journalist and founder of both the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and the Journal of Negro History (both while serving as a dean at Howard University), he literally spent his entire career trying to advance the nation's understanding of Black history. He was a member of Omega Psi Phi, and a dean at both Howard and West Virginia Collegiate Institute (now West Virginia State University).
Dr. Woodson believed that if both white and Black people learned Black history, it would reduce racial prejudice; racial prejudice, he believed, "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."He was frustrated that the contributions of Black people in the United States "were overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them," and dedicated his life to lobbying for a more inclusive history.
Following the "Red Summer" massacres of 1919 and leading into the Harlem Renaissance and an awakening of Black thought and culture, Dr. Woodson was considered to be one of the most important community leaders of the time because of his dedication to uncovering and preserving "lost history" -- or, rather, history that racists of the time were seeking to destroy, like that of the successful Black towns and business districts around the country that had been burned and terrorized, including Tulsa's Black Wall Street.
Dr. Woodson pioneered the idea that the field of Black history and Black studies should be owned and advanced by Black scholars who are able to "think Black." While he welcomed the interest of white scholars, he believed in letting the people with the lived experience of being Black in America be the experts on Blackness.
Young Students (K3-2nd Grade)
Dr. Carter G. Woodson believed history was a really important subject to help people get along. What do you know about your family's history? Who are the members of your family? What experiences have they had that make them who they are?
Middle Students (Grades 3-8)
Dr. Woodson believed that if other races better understood the history and accomplishments of Black people in America that it would eliminate racism. Do you agree or disagree with the idea that racism can be solved by better understanding the culture and history of others? Why?
High School Students (Grades 9-12)
Dr. Woodson once said, "If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated." Given this, and given his thoughts about the relationship between racism and learning history, why do you think there are efforts to erase the histories of Black, Indigenous, and Latino Americans in this country? Do you think those who seek to erase difficult but meaningful history understand the threat they are posing to the people who are being erased?
There is often a frustration for Black people and other people of color in majority environments around "who gets to be the expert"? Even when they have the same credentials as white colleagues or classmates, implicit bias often paints Black and Brown people as being of lesser intelligence than white and Asian colleagues. In what ways are you working in your classroom and school to center the expertise of people whose lived experience differs from yours, especially on topics relating to diversity and the history and culture of diverse people?
About the Series
A Black Child Can was founded to create a better world for students by empowering the adults around them with the knowledge they need to advocate on their behalf. The 2022 blog series builds on this foundation, encouraging educators to participate in the discussion and reflect on the ways they're showing up for their students.