Everything you need to know about Carter G. Woodson

The man behind Black History Month

By Francisco Guzman and AJ Willingham, CNN

Published January 29, 2020


The man behind the holiday

Carter G. Woodson, a pioneer in the study of African-American history, is credited with creating Black History Month.


Woodson was born on December 19, 1875 in New Canton, Virginia. He was the fourth of nine children born to parents who were enslaved. He spent his childhood working in coal mines and quarries, and received his education during the four-month term that was customary for black schools at the time.

Library of Congress

At 19, he taught himself English fundamentals and arithmetic. When Woodson entered high school, he completed a four-year curriculum in two years. He went on to earn his master's degree in history from the University of Chicago and later earned a doctorate from Harvard.

Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

How the holiday came about

Disturbed that history textbooks ignored America's black population, Woodson took on the challenge of writing black Americans into the nation's history. He established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, and founded the group's widely respected publication, the Journal of Negro History.


In 1926, Woodson developed Negro History Week. He believed "the achievements of the Negro properly set forth will crown him as a factor in early human progress and a maker of modern civilization." Negro History Week expanded into Black History Month in 1976.


Why he picked February

Woodson chose the second week of February because it marks the birthdays of two men who greatly influenced the black American population: Frederick Douglass (February 14) and President Abraham Lincoln (February 12).

Associated Press

Carter G. Woodson passed away on April 3, 1950. For his work, Woodson has been called the Father of Black History.