Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the founder of Negro History Week, also founded the Association for the Study of Negro (African American) Life and History (ASALH) in 1926. His mission is fulfilled each February by raising awareness of Black contributions across every sector of American life. His contributions leading to the establishment of the month-long observance in February are often overlooked. Still, his legacy continues through institutional observances in the U.S. and beyond.
“He [Dr. Woodson] believed African Americans needed to study, research and promote their history during that time,” Dr. Marvin Delaney, the new president of ASALH, told an audience on Tuesday at the virtual kickoff of Black History Month. At Woodson’s 146th birthday celebration in D.C. last December, Dr. Robert Stanton, former director of the National Park Service, quoted Woodson’s colleague Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune who said, “With the power of cumulative facts, Woodson gave us the capacity to move back barriers and broaden our vision of the world and the world’s vision of us.”
Woodson repeatedly espoused the importance of promoting Black History by stating, “If we don’t tell them, how will they know?”
ASALH continues to carry on Woodson’s Black History Movement by establishing the annual Black History Month theme, hosting month- and year-long events, producing virtual programs on ASALH-TV and publishing books and resources for teachers and students. Essentially, ASALH picked up Woodson’s mantle as it continues to spread African-American history and culture across this country and the world.
If Woodson were alive today, he would be less than annoyed by Americans, Whites and Blacks, leading attacks on the teaching of Critical Race Theory in grades K-12, despite their lack of understanding about what it means. Woodson was attacked, too, by racists who espoused the inferiority of Black people. But Woodson’s movement increasingly gained momentum and fueled the civil rights movement.
Woodson’s many quotes define his beliefs and intentions, one of which states: “If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world and it stands in the danger of being exterminated.”
Learning and teaching Black History is more than memorizing names, dates and facts.
Woodson urged, “The mere imparting of information is not education. Above all things, the effort must result in making a man think and do for himself.”