Few men, if any, can claim the title “father of black history”, but Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) is definitely one of the first to come to mind for many black history enthusiasts. Even though he is not considered a part of the modern civil rights movement, Woodson was still a founding father of sorts. As a self-educated scholar, from a poor, former slave family is surprised many that Woodson would later attend the University of Chicago and Harvard. Woodson was one of the first black scholars to study African American history. Ultimately he would come to establish the Journal of African-American History.
Woodson is important because he acknowledged the significance of the history that was being ignored, particularly the social and economic aspects. The parts of history, that to him, described virtue and potential. Malcolm X, a relatively more popular civil rights leader had a similar ideology. Both of these men saw value in African-American history, value that held young blacks to a higher standards than was being propagandasized around the country.
Woodson ideas and theories founded the highlighting principles of the Civil Rights Movement we all know. He had stressed the power of speech before civil rights leaders were even born; knowing that writing could never confine the same essence and power as a speech. It’s hard to imagine how the civil rights movement would have gone without Martin Luther King, Jr.’s powerful preaching and Malcolm X’s stress on black pride.
Ultimately through the journal he founded, Journal of African-American History, and his other scholarly activities, Woodson would come to inspire and establish the Harlem Renaissance. Through Renaissance writers like James Weldon Johnson and Claude McKay Woodson’s legacy would live on. At the MXI we not only create our own history, but we recognize the ideas of Carter Woodson and don’t forget the history of how our founding fathers had pride in their heritage, and conducted their actions with higher standards.