As a young man, Carter G. Woodson, “the father of black history,” lived in Huntington, W.Va. I was pleased to read this week that my alma mater, Marshall University, located there, and the Cabell County Schools are honoring his legacy by the launching the Dr. Carter G. Woodson Lyceum through a $20,000 grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council.
The Huntington Herald-Dispatch reported that the lyceum opened with a ceremony on January 20 in the Communications Building on campus with Burnis Morris, the Carter G. Woodson professor of journalism and mass communications at Marshall, presiding.
He said the goal of the lyceum would be to familiarize Huntington and West Virginia with Dr. Woodson’s teachings and encourage students and teachers to express his ideas in today’s society.
The term lyceum comes from the school founded by the Greek philosopher Aristotle’ in 335 B.C. as a place for thinking and learning, Morris said.
“At Marshall, the lyceum will reflect Woodson and Aristotle’s influence while addressing critical issues involving education, freedom of expression, race and ethnicity,” Morris said. “The lyceum will support scholarships for minorities and disadvantaged students and encourage full participation of all groups and individuals seeking the American dream.”
The first of the lyceum’s initiatives, supported by a grant of $20,035 from the Humanities Council, will be the Woodson Lyceum’s Summer Program for Black History Instruction. The total grant will double in size, amounting to $40,097 when an additional $20,062 in cash and in-kind contributions are included, Marshall’s Director of Communications Dave Wellman said in a release.
K-12 classroom teachers will study with experts in history, writing and journalism, produce lesson plans on black history and tour regional black history sites. Participants will receive $500 stipends and three hours of graduate credit.
“One of the powerful pieces of this whole initiative is we’re not just looking at a one-time event,” Cabell County Schools Superintendent Bill Smith said. “We’re talking about perpetuating that event throughout the district. One of the best ways to do that is to instruct children on (Huntington) being the epicenter of black history. As we’ve seen the movie ‘Hidden Figures,’ we don’t want Carter G. Woodson to be a hidden figure in Huntington anymore.” (One of the mathematicians featured in “Hidden Figures,” Katherine G. Johnson, was a West Virginian.)
Carter Godwin Woodson, an historian, journalist and educator, once said racial prejudice “is merely the logical result of tradition, the inevitable outcome of thorough instruction to the effect that the Negro has never contributed anything to the progress of mankind.”
He established Negro History Week in 1926 in part to address that and to assure that black schoolchildren learned the history of their people.
Woodson was born Dec. 19, 1875, to parents who had lived in slavery in New Canton, Va. They moved to Huntington, W.Va., because it had a black high school, but the family was too poor for Carter to attend. As the eldest of nine children, at 17, Woodson went to southern W.Va. to work in the then booming coal mines to earn money. He studied on his own and attended school sporadically. Finally, he entered Douglass High at age 20, graduating in two years, and eventually became its principal.
He graduated from Berea College in Kentucky and studied at the University of Chicago and the Sorbonne in Paris and was only the second black person, after William E.B. Du Bois, to earn a doctorate from Harvard University.
Woodson believed in the power of education, and he felt strongly that what little history of African Americans that whites wrote underrepresented or misrepresented the race, and he devoted his life to redressing that wrong. He eventually founded what is now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and the Journal of Negro History.
He wanted the world to know what blacks had contributed and accomplished. Most importantly, he wanted blacks to know it.
“If you can control a man’s thinking, you don’t have to worry about his actions,” Woodson said. “If you can determine what a man thinks you do not have to worry about what he will do. If you can make a man believe that he is inferior, you don’t have to compel him to seek an inferior status, he will do so without being told and if you can make a man believe that he is justly an outcast, you don’t have to order him to the back door, he will go to the back door on his own and if there is no back door, the very nature of the man will demand that you build one.”
In establishing “Negro History Week,” Woodson chose the second week of February to include Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, February 12, Frederick Douglass’s, February 14.
According to the Library of Congress, the public quickly embraced Negro History Week, and it grew in popularity, prompting the creation of black history clubs and an increase in interest among teachers and progressive whites.
President Gerald Ford issued a message on Feb. 10, 1976, during the nation’s bicentennial celebration, recognizing Black History Month in 1976.
“The last quarter-century has finally witnessed significant strides in the full integration of black people into every area of national life,” Ford said. “In celebrating Black History Month, we can take satisfaction from this recent progress in the realization of the ideals envisioned by our Founding Fathers. But, even more than this, we can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Woodson died April 3, 1950. A statue of him stands across the street from where Douglass High School once stood.
As we begin Black History Month, Diversebooks.net also would like to remind you that it offers more than 150 titles that deal with the African-American past.
Here are some selections available on DiverseBooks.net:
African American History Reconsidered (New Black Studies Series), by Pero Dagbovie, $25, University of Illinois Press, March 2010, ISBN-10: 0252077016, ISBN-13: 978-0252077012, pp. 280.
An associate professor of history at Michigan State University assesses the state of scholarship on and the teaching of African American history, examining its past, present and future as a field of study.
Early Negro Writing 1760-1837, $21.21, (List Price $24.95) edited by Dorothy Porter, Black Classic Press, ISBN 9780933121591, pp. 660.
This is a rare collection of significant writings by African Americans, including narratives, poems and essays. It is compiled from books, documents of organizations, speeches and pamphlets dating to the American colonial period. The writings are by such familiar figures as Phillis Wheatley, Prince Hall, James Forten, Absolom Jones, Richard Allen, David Ruggles and by some who may be more obscure to most readers.
The Historical Present: Uses and Abuses of the Past, by Edwin M. Yoder, Jr., $22.50 (List Price, $25), University of Mississippi Press, October 2008, ISBN: 9781604731729, p. 192.
A Washington and Lee University professor and former Pulitzer Prize winner examines how the study of history is our key to understanding the present. In a book of essays, Yoder suggests that Americans tend to avoid history and often believe they can ignore it. Whether it is the evolution of a bunch of colonies into a nation or the drafting of the Constitution, he argues, that the past is everpresent.
Slavery, Propaganda, and the American Revolution, by Patricia Bradley, $22.50 (List price: $25) University of Mississippi Press, May 1999, ISBN: 9781578062119, p. 224.
As the patriots fighting American independence shaped their goals for the revolution, they had no intention of applying the principles of liberation to all. This study shows how the freedom fighters excluded blacks from consideration and kept the issue of slavery off the agenda. The author, a Temple University department chair, compares coverage of the issue in the patriot press to the moderate colonial presses of the day. The Boston Gazette, for instance, ignored or distorted accounts of slavery and omitted petitions by blacks and otherwise resorted to propaganda to protect the status quo.
Courtship and Love among the Enslaved in North Carolina, by Rebecca J. Fraser, $45, (List price: $50), University of Mississippi Press, ISBN 9781934110072, pp. 160. January 2011.
While people may generally assume that the conditions of slavery were never conducive to courtship and love among the enslaved, the author’s study demonstrates that couples found ways to pursue and maintain successful relationships. Sometimes they did so while living on different plantations, and the rituals of mating allowed them some escape from the drudgery of their work lives and dignity as human beings. Fraser’s study also discusses gender roles and expectations among the enslaved.
Empire and Slavery in American Literature, 1820-1865, by Eric J. Sundquist, $22.50 (List Price: $25) University of Mississippi Press, April 2006, ISBN: 9781578068630, pp. 224.
Two streams of American literature emerged before the Civil War: One dealing with the national obsession for expanding frontiers and one dealing with the pros and cons of slavery. The author juxtaposes them, tracing the emergence of our national image. A reviewer on H-net Online said: “He offers scholars a wealth of little-known texts placed in contexts that illuminate their value to global, postcolonial, multiethnic, and national discourses …His approach contributes to an understanding of the interrelation of voices across regions, races, cultures, and communities.”
I Have a Dream: A 50th Year Testament to the March That Changed America, by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, with photographs by Bob Adelman, $44.95 (List price: $49.99), Pearson, August 2013, ISBN-10: 0133498395, ISBN-13: 978-0133498394, pp. 256.
This book chronicle events leading up to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and the events on that great day, Aug. 28, 1963, including numerous angles of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. giving his soul-stirring “I Have a Dream” speech. The book is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of this address and includes the text of the speech and more than 100 stunning photos from Civil Rights Movement and march. The photographs are by Bob Adelman, who followed the Movement as the official photographer for the Congress of Racial Equality and contributed work to many publications.
For full review see: http://diverseeducation.com/article/55511/#
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