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"Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history"

Carter G. Woodson, 1933

An educator, philosopher, mentor to African American scholars, and founder of the African American Historical Association, Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) dedicated his life taking on the challenge of writing African Americans into the nation's history.

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African American History Month
Dr. Carter G. Woodson

Carter G. Woodson, known as the "Father of African American History," created several key organizations and founded Negro History Week (precursor to African American History Month). His life was build around sharing the message was that African Americans should be proud of their heritage and that it was important for other Americans it.

Born in New Canton, Buckingham County, Virginia to former slaves Anne Eliza (Riddle) and James Henry Woodson, Carter G. Woodson cited his father as a major influence in his life.  Though, as slaves, his parents were never taught to read or write, they shared life experiences and wisdom.  Years later, Woodson wrote of his father stressed that "learning to accept insult, to compromise on principle, to mislead your fellow man, or to betray your people, is to lose your soul."

Like many African Americans of his generation, economic hardships prevented Woodson from pursuing the formal education that he and his family wanted.  Carter, as a young man, taught himself the core academic subjects that were typically taught in school.  This instilled a love of life-long learning.  At 17, he moved to Huntington, West Virginia, with his brother, Robert Henry.  They hoped to attend the Douglass High School. 

Again, economics dictated that he support himself financially.  He work3ed as a miner in Fayette County coal fields.  Hard, demanding work, he was able to devote only a few months each year to his schooling.  This did not stop him, however, he received his diploma in 1895, in less than two years.

He worked in education, as a school teacher and then principal and earned his Bachelor of Literature degree from Berea College, Kentucky.  He then spent much of his life working in the Philippines and Later he traveling throughout Europe and Asia, studying at the Sorbonne University in Paris. In 1908, he received his M.A. from the University of Chicago.  In 1912, he received his Ph.D. in history from Harvard University.

Dr. Woodson held an important philosophy of history. Period textbooks of his time intentionally minimized the role of Africans and African Americans.  He saw this as an injustice to all Americans.  Not only were important facts left out, Dr. Woodson believed that historical study must go beyond dates and names and  interpret facts. Meaningful history must present descriptions of the social conditions.

Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and the Journal of Negro History, one of the oldest learned journals in the United States. He promoted Negro History Week in 1937, publishing the first issue of the Negro History Bulletin.

While a strong advocate for more diversity and inclusion within the study of histry, Dr. Woodson hoped the time would come when Negro History Week would be unnecessary -- it would be integrated in our views of the historical development of our country and culture.  Recognizing the contributions of African Americans as a legitimate and integral part of the history of this country.  The places, people, and events that influenced our nation would be studied and accepted on the merits of their significant to all Americans.

One does not simply rewrite history overnight; nor it it accomplished in one lifetime.  Dr. Woodson's inspired others to carry on his work.  Today, the study of African American history is widely accepted as an important topic of intellectual inquiry.  Many believe that the most important contribution that Dr. Woodson gave us is a deep and justified sense of dignity to all African Americans, cultivating pride in the rich heritage of diverse Americans.

By Bill Breitsprecher
©2006, Breitlinks.  All Rights Reserved

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Books By Dr. Carter G. Woodson

African heroes and heroines. Washington: Associated Publishers, 1939. 

The African background outlined. Washington: ASNLH., 1936.

The education of the negro prior to 1861: a history of the education of the colored people of the United States from the beginning of slavery to the Civil War. New York: Putnam's, 1915. 

A century of negro migration. Washington, D.C.: ASNLH., 1918. 

The history of the negro church. Washington, D.C.: Associated Publishers, 1921. 

The mis-education of the negro. Washington: Associated Publishers, 1933. Repr. AMS Press, 1972. 

The negro in our history. Washington, D.C.: Associated Publishers, 1922. E185.9 .W89 1970 

Free negro owners of slaves in the United States in 1830: together with absentee ownership of slaves in the United States in 1830, ed. Washington: ASNLH., 1924; Repr. Negro Univ. Press. 

Free negro heads of families in the United States in 1830: together with brief treatment of the free negro. Washington: ASNLH., 1925. 

Negro orators and their orations, ed. Washington: Associated Publishers, 1926The Mind Of The Negro As Reflected In Letters Written During The Crisis, 1800-1860, ed. Washington: ASNLH., 1926. 

Negro Makers of History. Washington: Associated Publishers, 1928. 

African myths together with proverbs: a supplementary reader composed of folk tales from various parts of Africa. Adapted to use of children in the public schools. Washington: Associated Publishers, 1928. 

The negro as a businessman, joint author with John H. Harmon, Jr. and Arnett G. Lindsay. Washington: Associated Publishers, 1929. 

The negro wage earner, joint author with Lorenzo J. Greene. Washington: ASNLH., 1930.

The negro professional man and the community: with special emphasis on the physician and the lawyer. Washington: ASNLH., 1934 

The rural negro. Washington: ASNLH., 1930. Repr. Russell, 1969. 

The story of the negro retold. Washington: Association Publishers, 1935. 

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Periodical Articles by Dr. Carter G. Woodson

"The Negroes of Cincinnati Prior to the Civil War." Journal of Negro History, 1(January, 1916): 1-22. 

"Freedom and Slavery in Appalachian America." Journal of Negro History, 1(April, 1916): 132-150. 

"The Beginnings of the Miscegenation of the Whites and Blacks." Journal of Negro History, 3(October, 1918): 335-353. 

"Negro Life and History in Our Schools." Journal of Negro History, 4(July, 1919): 273-280. 

"The Relations of Negroes and Indians in Massachusetts." Journal of Negro History, 5(January, 1920): 44-57. 

"Fifty Years of Negro Citizenship as Qualified by the United States Supreme Court." Journal of Negro History, 6(January, 1921): 1-53. 

"Early Negro Education in West Virginia." Journal of Negro History, 7(January, 1922): 23-63. 

"Ten Years of Collecting and Publishing the Records of the Negro." Journal of Negro History, 10(October, 1925): 598-606. 

"Negro History Week." Journal of Negro History, 11(April, 1926): 238. 

"Emma Frances Grayson Merritt." Opportunity, 8(1930): 244-45.

"15 Outstanding Events in Negro History." Ebony, 5(February, 1950): 42-46. 

"A Health Venture with Negro Management." Southern Workman, 60(1931): 518-24.

"Journalism in Schools." Howard University Record, 14(may, 1920): 356-366. 

"The Mis-Education of the Negro." Crisis, 38(August, 1931): 266-67. 

"Negro Labor in the United States, 1850-1925." by Charles H. Wesley Ph.D., American Historical Review, 33(1927): 154-56. 

"Some Things Negroes Need to Do." Southern Workman, 51(January, 1922): 33-36.

"An Accounting of Twenty-Five Years." Journal of Negro History, 25(October, 1940): 422-431. 

"The Anniversary Celebrated." Negro History Bulletin, (June, 1941): 198-199. 

"The Negro in New England." Negro History Bulletin, 5(October, 1945): 421-431.

"Notes on the Bakongo." Journal of Negro History, 30(October, 1945): 421-431.

"Egypt." Negro History Bulletin, 13(November, 1949): 39-45; (December, 1949): 62-70; (January, 1950): 95. 

"Thaddeus Stevens: Crusader." Negro History Bulletin, 13(December, 1949): 51-52.


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Research Guide:  
African American History

Here are some resources to learn more about the contributions of African Americans.  Be sure to also take a look at Voices' Celebration of the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Conducting a search for information in an organized manner will help us locate what we need with the least amount of work.  It also helps ensure that we start projects with good information.  To see an easy to follow outline to help organize a research project, check our Mr. B's "Take Five" Research Process.   To see more about writing, please look at Mr. B's Writing Quick Tips for "tips & tricks" and links to other Websites that cover virtually ALL aspects grammar and writing.  

Topic:  While intentionally omitted from historical accounts of American history in the past, African Americans have played an important part in the development of this nation and our culture.  

Library Subject Headings.  Understanding the difference between keyword and subject heading searches is important.  Keywords represent text that appears in a document.  Subject headings are assigned by an information specialists to help researchers identify resources that cover similar topics.  A powerful tool, subject headings create connections between sources and allow a user to benefit from someone else's work classifying information. 

Computerize library catalogs, can be searched with keywords, just like most Internet search engines.   Many useful resources, however, do not share keywords -- this means they will not be located by keyword searches.  Subject headings, however, identify documents that contain information about similar topics even when those documents do not share keywords.  Here is a listing of common subject headings (Sears), typically used in public and school libraries.

  • African American
  • African American actors
  • African American art 
  • African American artists
  • African American athletes
  • African American authors
  • African American business people
  • African American children
  • African American elderly
  • African American librarians
  • African American men
  • African American music
  • African American musicians
  • African American women
  • African American youth
  • African American -- Biographies
  • African American -- Chicago (use any state or major city)
  • African American -- Civil rights
  • African American -- Economic conditions
  • African American -- Education
  • African American -- Employment
  • African American -- Folklore
  • African American -- Housing
  • African American -- Intellectual life
  • African American -- Political activity
  • African American -- Race Identity
  • African American -- Religion
  • African American -- Segregation
  • African American -- Social Conditions
  • African American -- Social life and customs
  • African American -- Southern States
  • African American -- Suffrage
  • American literature -- African American authors
  • American Poetry -- African American authors
  • African Americans in art (Use for African Americans depicted in works of art, use African American artists for information on the works of several artists)
  • African Americans in literature (Use for materials on the theme of African Americans in works of literature, use African American authors for information on the works of several authors)
  • African Americans in television (Use for materials on the portrayal of African Americans in television, use African American authors for information on the works of several authors)
  • African Americans in television broadcasting (Use for materials on all aspects of African Americans involvement in the television industry)
  • African Americans in the motion picture industry (Use for materials on all aspects of African Americans involvement in the motion picture industry)
  • Libraries and African Americans
  • Names of specific individuals
  • Specific occupations

Note:  older library catalogs may have used "Afro" instead of "African"  

Dewey Decimal Numbers.  Libraries are organized to help people find sources by ideas or topic (intellectual access) and then make that information easy to find on the shelves (physical access).  Most public and school libraries use the Dewey Decimal System, numbers that tell library users where to find information on the shelves.  

Here are some useful Dewey Decimal Numbers that should contain information about African American History.  "Browse" these sections to see if any resources look interesting or useful, looking up materials by subject headings will also refer library users to additional Dewey classifications.

  • 305.896 (Africans and people of African descent)
  • 323 (Civil and political rights)
  • 920 (Biography, use last name of subject)
  • 973 (General United States History)
  • 973.92 (United States History)

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