2019-02-06 / Front Page

Black History Month from its beginnings

True Citizen intern

We celebrate Black History Month every year by paying homage to many great African Americans - for their sacrifices and their achievements, but many people are unaware of its origin. This historic celebration all began with one man and his vision to see a group of people get paid the respect they not only needed but deserved.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the “Father of Black History,” was an American author, scholar and historian who was also the first person to study African American history. Born to former slaves on Dec. 19, 1875, Woodson didn’t allow his humble beginnings to define him. He taught himself how to read and write despite the fact that he rarely had time to attend primary school due helping his family farm. He became a master of both and eventually enrolled in high school at the age of 20; two years later he graduated. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago and then enrolled at the prestigious Harvard University where he graduated in 1912 as only the second African American to receive a doctoral degree.

Convinced that not only the culture but the history of African Americans would be misrepresented or forgotten, Dr. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915. In 1916, Woodson started the Journal for Negro History, a publication that never missed an issue, even during the Great Depression and two World Wars. He once said, “I am not afraid of being taken down by white businessmen. In fact, I should welcome it. It would do the cause much good. Let us banish fear. We have been in this mental state for three centuries. I am a radical. I am ready to act, if I can find brave men to help me.”

Dr. Woodson devoted the rest of his life to the historical research of African Americans until he passed away in 1950 at the age of 74.

Like a puzzle, the big- ger picture is formed by the sum of its smaller parts. This is something that local resident Mike Searles understands and says Burke County plays a part in.

“Our community is doing quite an extraordinary job in keeping Black History alive,” he says of the county he became a resident of some 42 years ago. “We have established many different activities in churches and schools to remind people how important this month is.”

Education is the key, he says, because it opens minds up to a period of history many people may not be aware of. “Generations go on; the story must go on so history will be remembered,” he said, adding that Dr. Woodson noticed black history was not being preserved and represented properly. “He realized the importance of sharing with the youth so that history is never forgotten. You cannot talk about American history without talking about the different groups of people. Without that, it will just fade into the background.”

Each week throughout February, The True Citizen will explore some of Burke County’s own black history. We will share stories from local citizens who remember a different time - moments that many will remember, and others have never heard about.

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