Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950)

Sure, there were figures like Thucydides, Arnold Toynbee, and A.J.P Taylor, but today’s Google doodle is of a true historian giant, Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950).

Sure, I’ve never heard of him, but I ought to have, and would have were it not for the suffocating strictures of white supremacy:

Carter Godwin Woodson was an African-American historian, author, journalist and the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. He was one of the first scholars to study African-American history. A founder of The Journal of Negro History in 1915, Woodson has been cited as the “father of black history”. In February 1926 he launched the celebration of “Negro History Week”, the precursor of Black History Month.

Woodson was less interested in History, per se, than in Black History.

Woodson was ostracized by some of his contemporaries because of his insistence on defining a category of history related to ethnic culture and race. At the time, these educators felt that it was wrong to teach or understand African-American history as separate from more general American history. According to these educators, “Negroes” were simply Americans, darker skinned, but with no history apart from that of any other. Thus Woodson’s efforts to get Black culture and history into the curricula of institutions, even historically Black colleges, were often unsuccessful. Today African-American studies have become specialized fields of study in history, music, culture, literature and other areas; in addition, there is more emphasis on African-American contributions to general American culture. The United States government celebrates Black History Month.

Who were the contemporaries who ‘ostracized’ him for his racial historical lens? Were any such individuals themselves black? Might it have been akin to the W.E.B. Du Bois vs. Booker T. Washington bifurcation, where very different perspectives on what it means to be black were taken, Du Bois’ perspective having won out culturally, leading to much of our country’s current racial woes?

Here’s an instructive quote from Woodson:

“If you can control a man’s thinking, you don’t have to worry about his actions. If you can determine what a man thinks you do not have to worry about what he will do. If you can make a man believe that he is inferior, you don’t have to compel him to seek an inferior status, he will do so without being told and if you can make a man believe that he is justly an outcast, you don’t have to order him to the back door, he will go to the back door on his own and if there is no back door, the very nature of the man will demand that you build one.”

And this one:

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

Both of the above quotes are salient today… for whites.

If only they would heed its message.

Will there someday be a Carter G. Woodson-like figure who champions White History?

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