RBG- Mis-Education of the Negro, Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1933)

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RBG- Mis-Education of the Negro, Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1933)


  • 2. Page 2 of 144IntroductionConsiderable time has passed since the first printing of this volume, but it is significantthat it has meaning and direct implications for todays consideration. While it does notrelate exclusively to Black History it does emphasize its instruction, research andwriting. In substance Carter Woodson has produced a definitive and constructivecritique of the educational system, with special reference to its blighting effects on theNegro; and the term he used, Mis-education, was the most apt and descriptive wordavailable. It is still, in 1969, equally as relevant and expressive. Now, however, it isloudly articulated by many voices of Whites as well as Blacks, who likewise challengethe system.The most imperative and crucial element in Woodsons concept of mis-education hingedon the education systems failure to present authentic Negro History in schools and thebitter knowledge that there was a scarcity of literature available for such a purpose,because most history books gave little or no space to the black mans presence inAmerica. Some of them contained casual references to Negroes but these generallydepicted them in menial, subordinate roles, more or less sub-human. Such booksstressed their good fortune at having been exposed, through slavery, to the higher(white mans) civilization. There were included derogatory statements relating to theprimitive, heathenish quality of the African background, but nothing denoting skills,abilities, contributions or potential in the image of the Blacks, in Africa or America.Woodson considered this state of affairs deplorable, an American tragedy, dooming theNegro to a brain-washed acceptance of the inferior role assigned to him by thedominant race, and absorbed by him through his schooling.Moreover, the neglect of Afro-American History and distortion of the facts concerningNegroes in most history books, deprived the black child and his whole race of aheritage, and relegated him to nothingness and nobodyness. This was Woodsonsconviction as he stated it in this book and as he lived by it. In his Annual Report of theMis-Education of the Negro Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1933)
  • 3. Page 3 of 144Association for the Study of Negro Life and History for the year ending June 30, 1933,the publication period of Mis-Education, he stated:Regarding the Negro race as a factor in world culture rather than as an element in asequestered sphere, the Director (Woodson) has recently made two trips to Europe toextend the study of the notice taken of Negroes by European authors and artists, and toengage a larger number of Europeans and Africans in the study of the past of theNegro. 1Thus it is evident that the stress which Dr. Woodson places on historical research,writing, and teaching in this volume was not theoretical jargon. It represented rather, afirm belief; also a judgement of the available type of education that was so stronglyoriented as to warrant his complete and selfless dedication to its betterment. Thisdevotion became a crusade which, in the above instance, carried him to Europe in aneffort to open new avenues for recreating and writing of the black mans past. This wasin line with his basic charges against the omission by most historians of such animportant part of history.Mis-Education criticizes the system, and explains the vicious circle that results from mis-educated individuals graduating, then proceeding to teach and mis-educate others. Butthe book is by no means a study in negation. The author goes to great lengths in tracingthe historical foundations of the problem, its development, and its influence oninterpersonal relations and historical scholarship. Numerous other scholars now followits example.The youths of the race were Woodsons particular concern because he recognized thatit was with, the boys and girls that Mis-education began, later crystallizing into deep-seated insecurities, intra-racial cleavages, and interracial antagonisms. All of thesefactors have been discussed over and over in the immediate past, by historians,sociologists, psychiatrists, and laymen, but Dr. Woodson, and a pitifully small number ofothers, had pointed the way a full generation earlier.Mis-Education of the Negro Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1933)
  • 4. Page 4 of 144More so than most of his contemporaries did Woodson contribute because he gave upa prestigious educational career, including a school principalship in Washington, D.C.,the position of Dean at both Howard University and West Virginia State College. Hedecided instead to devote his finances and energies to an association which would helpto overcome the inadequacies of the system which promoted mis-education. This wasnot by any means his first book but the views expressed herein form a sort of core orcenter, to and from which his texts and other writings protrude and revert.All of this scholars researches and writings were designed to provide educationalsustenance, to fill the void which existed by reason of neglect of Black Studies. As hasbeen already observed, however, he was no mere theorist, he was an activist and apragmatist. He knew that writing alone would be inadequate for the enormity of theneed. Consequently he, with four others, founded The Association for the Study ofNegro Life and History, established the Journal of Negro History, and concentratedmightily on the educational aspect of his program, trying to counteract the poison of mis-education. In regard to these efforts he reported:The calls on the Research Department for assistance to teachers and students havemultiplied so as to make this phase of the work a heavy burden on a small staff.Instructors now taking up the study of the Negro require help in working out courses inthis new field; and their students are urged to make frequent use of the Department bycorrespondence or a visit to the home of the Association. 2That statement is just as relevant in todays situation as it was when Woodson made it!As a matter of fact it might be copied and used by the present Director of theAssociation and it would be true except that the demand for services has increased athousand-fold. The study of the Black man is still new in this generation, but suchadvances as have been made are in large part due to the vision, insight, writings, andpublishing of pioneers like Carter Woodson. Indeed his analyses and conclusionsregarding the entire educational system and its unrelatedness to future needs of thestudents stand firm, on solid ground. They were extendable to the 1960s, and studentMis-Education of the Negro Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1933)
  • 5. Page 5 of 144attitudes and actions make it quite clear that the reasoning and recommendations ofMis-Education constitute a convenient point of departure for the current reformation ofeducational institutions.If Woodson had been content with merely writing his own articles and books hiscontribution would have been monumental, because his production was tremendousand his methodology was scientific. He, however, conceived of this historical vacuum interms of such magnitude that no one historian could possibly do enough research andwriting to seek the facts, organize and present them, and correct the false and distortedinformation which had been passed off for true history for many generations.Consequently he sought, encouraged, and published the works of other scholars whoshared his convictions and his sense of urgency in the premises.As one noteworthy example, Lawrence D. Reddick has an analytical article of fortypages in the Journal of Negro History entitled "Racial Attitudes in American HistoryTextbooks of the South." 3 In line with Woodsons complaints this author pointed outthat the average pupil received a picture of slavery which generally managed to justify it,to explain the climate and economic conditions which fastened it to the South, and tominimize the hardships for blacks by emphasizing their good nature and song-singing.The textbook authors stressed the fact that there had been no practical way to freesouthern slaves, and blamed the northern abolitionists for the hardening of southernattitudes.There was virtually nothing in the textbooks he explored that referred to the role anddevelopment of the Negro in national life after Reconstruction. His activities in the warsand national defense were completely ignored, and illustrations for all periods werealmost non-existent. Thus this article, accepted, edited, and published by Woodson, inall respects bore out his grievance against Mis-education, and it went to the very heartof his thesis.Mis-Education of the Negro Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1933)
  • 6. Page 6 of 144In the same issue of the Journal of Negro History another article reinforced his viewsfrom a different investigative angle. Thomas L. Dabney made a survey of Negro andwhite colleges to determine the ones which offered courses in Negro History and/orLiterature, or Race Relations; the Negro public schools