Black History Month

Carter Washington was born in Virginia in 1875. Both of his parents had been slaves. His father was illiterate but his mother had been taught to read by her mistress. As a child, Carter did not attend school so that he could help out on a small farm they were able to buy in West Virginia. Basically, he taught himself with the help of his mother and uncles.

When he was 17, Cater hoped to go to high school. He moved to Huntington, WV so he could attend a segregated high school. With no money to support himself, he took a job in a coal mine. By the age of 20, he had enough money to go to high school. He graduated two years later.

After high school, he was able to get a job as a teacher in a local school.  Three years after he graduated from high school, he returned there as its principal. A year later he entered Berea College and earned a degree in literature in two years.

After spending 4 years as a school supervisor in the Philippines, he returned to the U.S. and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Chicago. Then he earned a Ph.D. at Harvard.

Even with a Ph.D. from Harvard, he had difficulty finding an academic appointment. His Ph.D. was in History, but the American Historical Association would not allow him to attend their conference. He became committed to elevating the history of African Americans. With financing from foundations, he formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASLNH). He thought that it was essential to make people aware of the contributions of African Americans throughout the history of America.

He began to publish books and scholarly journals. He hoped that these efforts would eventually make it into classrooms. In 1926, he established Negro History Week as the second week in February. That week was chosen because it coincided with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas. African American students and faculty at Kent State later advocated for the extension of the recognition of African American contributions to the entire month of February. Since 1976, every President has proclaimed February as Black History Month.

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“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” – Desmond Tutu

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