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Biography of Black Historian Carter G. Woodson

Carter G. Woodson is known as the father of black history. He worked tirelessly to establish the field of African-American history in the early 1900s. Born on Dec. 19, 1875, Woodson was the son of two former slaves who had nine children; he was the seventh. He rose from these modest origins to become a respected historian.

Woodsons parents owned a 10-acre tobacco farm near the James River in Virginia, and their children had to spend most of their days doing farm work to help the family survive.

This wasnt an unusual situation for farm families in late 19th-century America, but it did mean that young Woodson had little time to pursue his studies.

Two of his uncles ran a schoolroom that met five months out of the year, and Woodson attended when he could. He learned to read using the Bible and his fathers newspapers in the evening. As a teenager, he went to work in the coal mines. During his free time, Woodson continued his education on his own, reading the writings of Roman philosopher Cicero and the Roman poet Virgil.

When he was 20 years old, Woodson enrolled at Frederick Douglass High School in West Virginia, where his family then lived. He graduated in a year and went on to Berea College in Kentucky and Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. While he was still in college, he became an educator, teaching high school and serving as principal.

After his college graduation in 1903, Woodson spent time teaching in the Philippines and also traveled, visiting the Middle East and Europe.

When he returned to the states, he enrolled at the University of Chicago and received both his bachelors and masters degrees in the spring of 1908. That fall, he became a doctoral student in history at Harvard University.

Woodson was not the first African-American to earn a Ph.D.

in history from Harvard; that distinction went to W.E.B. Du Bois. But when Woodson graduated in 1912, he embarked on the project of making the history of African-Americans both visible and respected. Mainstream historians were white and tended towards