February 4th, 2021
How Black History Month Began
February is Black History Month, which we can credit to the works of someone who made West Virginia their home: Dr. Carter G. Woodson.
Dr. Woodson was born in Virginia to former slaves and grew up during the Reconstruction Era. The family left Virginia for West Virginia in hopes of a better life. Dr. Woodson worked as a coal miner so he could have funds to attend Frederick Douglass High School in Huntington, W.Va.
He graduated from Fredrick Douglass and later went on to complete his PhD in history at Harvard University in 1912. He was only the second African American to do so.
Dr. Woodson had a love of history and was a dues-paying member of the American Historical Association (AHA). Although a member, he was not able to attend the meetings and felt the group did not recognize African American culture. He mentioned black contributions "were overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them."
Dr. Woodson began reaching out to black teachers, civic leaders, clergymen and women’s groups to help in his quest to educate those about black history. Dr. Woodson believed that history belonged to everyone and not just historians. He was able to get the community to celebrate the history of the African American community for a week. Dr. Woodson passed away in 1950, but those in the African American community kept with the celebration.
Dr. Woodson believed that education and increasing contact between black and white people could reduce racism. He also believed the study of black history should not be something confined to a week.
In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month. Dr. Carter Woodson has been dubbed the “Father of Black History” and because of him we can reflect on all of the triumphs, failures and obstacles those in the African American community faced.