Since 1976, Black History Month has been celebrated in the U.S. in February. President Gerald Ford officially ushered in the annual event that year, encouraging Americans to “join [him] in tribute to Black History Month and the message of courage and perseverance it brings to all of us.” Furthermore, in his message to the nation, Ford recognized the efforts of Dr. Carter G. Woodson. But who exactly was he, and what part did he have to play in the recognition of black people’s achievements through the centuries?
Woodson’s story starts in 1875, when he was born as one of seven children to one-time slaves Eliza and James Riddle Woodson. James relocated his family to West Virginia upon discovering that a high school for black children was being established in the city of Huntingdon; unfortunately, though, Woodson’s family were unable to afford to send him to be educated in his youth.
So, during his childhood, Woodson went into mining and sharecropping as a means to help support his family. He was an autodidact, however, and managed to learn the basics of typical school subjects himself by 17. Then, when Woodson was almost in his 20s, he finally enrolled at Douglass High School.