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February is black history month, amongst other things. With all due respect to the other things, my focus here is black history month. It begins with Dr. Carter G. Woodson, born December 19, 1875, in New Canton, Virginia. The son of former slaves he went on to become a great historian, author, journalist and activist. Being of a large family he was only able to attend school part-time at Huntington, West Virginia, spending most of his time working on their farm. A veracious learner, he taught himself basic school subjects by 17 years old. At age 20 he entered Douglass High school and finish in less than two years. While working in the coal fields and attending classes he earned his bachelor’s degree in two years from Berea College in Kentucky in 1903. He then taught school until he became principal of Douglass High. Continuing his education while working full time he earned his BA and MA from the University of Chicago in 1908. Finally he completed his Ph.D. at Harvard in 1912, the second black to do so after W. E. B. Dubois. Next he joined the faculty at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and went on to become dean there.
Convinced that the struggles and contributions of blacks went largely ignored, in 1915, he founded the study of Negro life and history with Alexander Jackson and associates on September 9. In January 1916 he publish the Journal of Negro History; known today as the association for the study of African American Life and History.(ASALH) in 1926 Woodson pioneered the celebration of black history week during the second week in February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. In 1976 during the commemoration of America’s bi-centennial, Black History Week was extended to the entire month and became known as Black History Month.
Even in the presence of great intellectuals and activists such as Booker T. Washington, Archibald Grimke’, W.E.B. Dubois, Marcus Garvey, Mary McLeod Bethume, Ida B. Wells, Harriet Tubman, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, etc., Dr. Carter G. Woodson was and is considered the foremost authority on Black American History whose purpose is to educate and enlighten.