Carter Godwin Woodson was born on December 19, 1875, in New Canton, Virginia, to former slaves, Anna Eliza Riddle Woodson and James Woodson. The fourth of seven children, young Woodson worked as a sharecropper and a miner to help his family until he was almost 20. Understanding the importance of gaining a proper education motivated him to earn a high school diploma in West Virginia and bachelor and master’s degrees from the University of Chicago in just a few years. In 1912, Woodson became the second African American, following W.E.B. Dubois, to earn a PhD at Harvard University.
Passionate about history and painfully aware of the lack of information about the accomplishments of blacks in 1915, Dr. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which still exists today under the name, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).
Under Woodson’s leadership, the Association created research and publication outlets for black scholars by establishing the Journal of Negro History (1916) and the Negro History Bulletin (1937).
In 1926, Dr. Woodson initiated the celebration of Negro History Week, which corresponded with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. In 1976, this celebration was expanded to include the entire month of February, and today Black History Month is recognized throughout the country as people of all ethnic and social backgrounds discuss the black experience. Woodson’s desire was not that black people would have a separate history, but that black history would not be overlooked as an integral part of American history.
Woodson formed the Associated Publishers Press in 1921 to help black authors publish their work. and also wrote more than a dozen books over the years, including A Century of Negro Migration (1918), The History of the Negro Church (1921), The Negro in Our History (1922) and Mis-Education of the Negro (1933).