Recognizing Black history

Black History has been recognized by Americans since 1926. Initially dubbed “Negro History Week,” that week-long celebration soon grew into a month-long recognition of black people and their important contributions throughout the country’s history.

When initially proposed, black history in the United States had hardly been studied, not even making into the nation’s history books until the 20th century. Those who are appreciative of black history can thank Carter Goodwin Woodson. Born in 1875 to two former slaves, Woodson was one of the first historians to study black history and emphasize the importance of blacks’ contributions to the country.

Woodson’s own story is the stuff of legend and the kind of story 21st century Americans would likely consider worthy of its own movie. Now widely considered the Father of African-American history, Woodson did not begin his own formal education until he was 20 years old. Denied access to public education in his home state of Virginia,Woodson did not start school until he moved to nearby West Virginia.

Within two years, Woodson had earned his high school diploma, and by 1897 he had earned a bachelor’s degree from Berea College. Advanced degrees from the University of Chicago soon followed, and Woodson would eventually study at Harvard as well.

Woodson did not only encourage the study of black history, he also made it easier to do just that. In 1915, Woodson founded The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and The Associated Publishers, the latter of which was intended to ensure black scholars always had an outlet for the publication of their works.

Updated 01-16-2011

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