The Father of Black History

Dr. Carter G. Woodson In 1926, Carter Godwin Woodson, a Harvard Ph.D. graduate, founded Black History Week. He was born Dec. 19, 1875, in New Canton, Va. His parents were newly freed slaves, and Dr. Woodson was the oldest of nine children.

Dr. Woodson worked in the local coal mines to help support his family. At age 17, he and his family moved to Fayette, Va. A young man of intense motivation, Dr. Woodson taught himself the basic fundamental school subjects. At age 20, he was able to enter high school full time, and earned his diploma in less than two years. In 1907, he received a Bachelor of Science degree and, in 1908, a Master's degree from the University of Chicago.

After years of study, Dr. Woodson realized that the contributions of Black Americans must be documented and taught. He believed, "If a race had no recorded history, its achievement would be forgotten and, in time, claimed by other groups."

As a result, from 1926 through 1975, America celebrated Black History Week, which included Feb. 12th and 14th. This week was chosen because Abraham Lincoln and the abolitionist Frederick Douglas were born on those days. During America's Bicentennial Celebration in 1976, Black History Week was expanded to include the entire month of February, to provide more time for programs and observances.

It was not Dr. Woodson's goal to rewrite history through the medium of what has now come to be known as Black History Month, but to explode the myth that Black Americans had no part to play in the framing of our nation's history. "We should not dim one bit the luster of any star in our firmament. Let no one be so thoughtless as to decry the record of the makers of the United States of America. We should not learn less of George Washington, 'First in War, First in Peace, First in the Hearts of his Countrymen;' but we should learn something also of the three thousand Negro soldiers of the American Revolution who helped to make this 'Father of the Country' possible.

"We should not cease to pay tribute to Abraham Lincoln as the 'Savior of the Country;' but we should ascribe praise also to the 178,975 Negroes who had to be mustered into the service of the Union before it could be preserved and who, by their heroism, demonstrated that they were entitled to freedom and citizenship,"said Woodson.

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Rev. Alex Person managed the African-American pastoral outreach at Focus on the Family at the time this article was written. He previously served as an Air Force chaplain for 17 years, as well as a pastor. He and his wife, Tommie, live in Colorado Springs. They are the proud parents of two adult children and the grandparents of two young grandchildren.