Featuring the voices of change

The man behind Black History Month


A graphic created by graphic designer Riley Gillum shows a silhouette of Black History Month pioneer Carter G. Woodson. “All American history is Black history, and so it needs to be addressed more throughout the entire year,” social studies teacher Connor Galloway said, “but I’m glad that we at least have one dedicated space to talk about [Black History] and open up spaces for conversation.” Black History Month is celebrated annually, and has been officially instituted in the United States for the last 48 years.

Gianna Ortner-Findlay, Editor-In-Chief

Library ofVa

Throughout this month, the Hill Top Times staff will be featuring essential faces in our history in honor of Black History Month, and the place we will begin is with the man who started it all, Carter G. Woodson.

Woodson was born in 1875 to illiterate parents who were both formerly enslaved people. As a result of this situation, Woodson could not go to school regularly. While he was eager to learn, he mainly self-taught the regular school subjects, simultaneously helping out on the family farm and putting in paid hours in the coal mine to help his family income. He officially entered high school at 2o and got his diploma two years later.

“I don’t know,” junior Chrissa Ward said, “[Black History Month] makes me feel like I can celebrate my culture and all that with other people.”

Woodson continued his schooling, earning a bachelor’s degree in literature from Berea College in Kentucky. Woodson then received his master’s degree from the University of Chicago. Finally, in 1912, he became the second African American to obtain a Ph.D. degree from Harvard University after W. E. B. Du Bois. He is, however, the only person whose parents were once enslaved in the United States to earn a Ph.D.

“I think that [Black History Month] is a great opportunity for Black History to be at the forefront of society,” social studies teacher Connor Galloway said.

Despite being a member, the scholar and historian began his crusade for highlighting Black History after being barred from attending the American Historical Association conferences. As a result, Woodson decided that African American contributions were undervalued for their history in society.

If you teach the Negro that he has accomplished as much good as any other race he will aspire to equality and justice without regard to race. Such an effort would upset the program of the oppressor in Africa and America.”

— Carter Godwin Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negro

Woodson believed that to allow Black scholars to study and preserve their history, he would have to create a separate structure that focused solely on these achievements in history. So, with funding from charitable, philanthropic foundations, he started the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915. The following year, he established the Journal of Negro History, which is still a functioning scholarly paper, under the Journal of African American History.

“[Black History Month] makes me happy,” Ward said, “because it’s just so diverse, especially within the school.”

In 1926, Carter G. Woodson launched ‘Negro History Week’ in the second week of February because it coincided with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. This concept became the foundation for the Black History Month celebrated today. The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, established by Woodson, chooses a theme for the month every year, and this year’s theme is Black Health and Wellness.

“All American history is black history, and so it needs to be addressed more throughout the entire year,” Galloway said, “but I’m glad that we at least have one dedicated space to talk about [Black History] and open up spaces for conversation.”

Real education means to inspire people to live more abundantly, to learn to begin with life as they find it and make it better”

— Carter G. Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negro

After the wake of the “Red Summer,” a time of heightened racially charged violence that killed upwards of 1,000 people, and the Harlem Renaissance, Carter G. Woodson gathered the history of Black Americans. Woodson ensured they had a legacy to remember, solidifying his place as an essential community pillar.