(1875–1950), historian, educator, and editor.
Born in Virginia to former slaves, Carter G. Woodson worked in coal mines until he entered high school at the age of nineteen, finishing in less than two years. Over the next several years, he taught high school and obtained a BL degree at the interracial Berea College (Kentucky). From 1903 to 1906 Woodson worked as supervisor of schools in the Philippines. In 1908 he received both BA and MA degrees from the University of Chicago and began teaching high school in Washington, D.C. He earned a PhD in history from Harvard University in 1912, becoming, after W. E. B. Du Bois, the second African American to receive a doctorate in history. From 1919 to 1922 he taught at Howard University and West Virginia Collegiate Institute, and served in high administrative posts at both institutions.
In 1915, Woodson, with several other scholars, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). ASNLH's publishing subsidiary, Associated Publishers, was for many years the leading black-owned press in the United States. The following year he founded the Journal of Negro History, the premier professional journal of African American history. He retired from the academy in 1922 to concentrate on the journal and asnlh, both of which he headed until his death, as well as his own historical writing. He also worked on stimulating popular interest in African American history, initiating Negro History Week (which later became Black History Month) in 1926, and founding the Negro History Bulletin (for use in primary and secondary education) in 1937.
Woodson's historical works include The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 (1915), The History of the Negro Church (1921), and The African Background Outlined (1936). He wrote several well-known textbooks, most notably The Negro in Our History (1922), popular in both high schools and universities. He was also greatly accomplished as an editor. He collected the speeches of Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and many others in Negro Orators and Their Orations (1925). He published a collection of letters, The Mind of the Negro as Reflected in Letters Written During the Crisis, 1800–1860 (1926), and edited the complete works of the minister and civil rights activist Francis J. Grimké (1942).
Woodson was particularly concerned with social and economic history. His work built on a previous tradition of black historians such as William Wells Brown and George Washington Williams, who used history to illustrate the virtues and potential of African Americans, as individuals and as a race. In many cases he pioneered attention to the particular circumstances and contexts of African American history. In Negro Orators and Their Orations, for example, he emphasizes the importance of the spoken nature of speeches by black orators, arguing that their performance could never be entirely captured by the printed page. His signficance for the study of African American culture and history, however, derives less from his own work and more from the institutional foundations and personal leadership he provided to the emerging discipline of black history. He inspired (and mentored) an entire generation of historians of African American culture, including Rayford W. Logan, Luther Porter Jackson, James Hugo Johnston, and others. His work, the journal he founded, and the scholarly activity he inspired all contributed to the cultural flowering of the Harlem Renaissance. The ongoing recovery of neglected aspects of African American history, literature, and culture owes much of its impetus to Woodson's founding efforts.