Who was Carter G. Woodson? 7 facts about the ‘Father of Black History’

This story has been updated.

To kick off Black History Month in 2018, Google debuted an illustration of Carter G. Woodson, who is often touted as the “Father of Black History,” on the Google homepage.

The doodle was created by artist Shannon Wright in collaboration with the Black Googlers Network.

“As a black woman from an underserved, underperforming public school in Richmond, California, many in my community didn’t expect me to achieve much beyond the four corners of my neighborhood,” Sherice Torres, director of brand marketing at Google and Black Googlers Network member, wrote in the Google Doodle blog. “When I voiced my ambition to go to Harvard, I was told by teachers, guidance counselors, and even some family members that ‘people like me’ didn’t go to schools like that. Fortunately, my parents believed in me and supported ambitions beyond their vision and experience. That support, along with the inspiration of great American leaders like Woodson, gave me the confidence to follow my dreams and achieve more than I’ve ever imagined.

Here are seven things to know about Carter G. Woodson:

He was born to former slaves

Woodson was born Dec. 19, 1875, in New Canton, Virginia, to Anna Eliza Riddle Woodson and James Woodson.

He was the fourth of seven children.

He started high school at age 20

According to Biography.com, Woodson worked as a miner and sharecropper to help his family out as a young kid, but when he made it to high school, he finished the four-year study in less than two years.

He was the second African-American to earn a doctorate from Harvard

In 1912, Woodson became only the second Black person to earn the prestigious degree, following in the footsteps of W.E.B. DuBois. He studied history at the university.

Before Harvard, Woodson attended Berea College in Kentucky and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Chicago.

Started Black History Month

In 1926, Woodson first turned to his former fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, which created Negro History and Literature Week in 1924, to get the message out. But according to History.com, Woodson wanted "a wider celebration" and decided the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which he helped found in Chicago, should "take on the task itself."

Woodson chose February to honor the birth months of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln. The program would later expand to become Black History Month.

He wrote multiple books

Woodson felt Black history had been neglected and misrepresented in academia and wrote several books on African-American subjects throughout his career. “The Education of the Negro prior to 1861,” written by Woodson and his colleague Alexander L. Jackson, was one pivotal work.

He believed racism could be overcome through education

In his famous 1933 book, “The Mis-Education of the Negro,” Woodson wrote, “The ‘educated Negroes’ have the attitude of contempt toward their own people because in their own, as well as in their mixed schools, Negroes are taught to admire the Hebrew, the Greek, the Latin and the Teuton and to despise the African.”

"Race prejudice," he concluded, "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. Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history."

He died in 1950

Woodson died of a heart attack April 3, 1950, at age 75.