Carter G. Woodson, in full Carter Godwin Woodson, (born December 19, 1875, New Canton, Virginia, U.S.—died April 3, 1950, Washington, D.C.), American historian who first opened the long-neglected field of Black studies to scholars and popularized the field in schools and colleges across the United States.
He established, in 1926, what became Black History Month, and he came to be known as the “father of Black history.”
Woodson, whose parents were formerly enslaved people, was born into a poor family that moved to West Virginia, where he supported himself and his family by working in the coal mines. He did not have enough money to enroll in high school until he was 20.
After graduating in less than two years, he taught high school and wrote. He studied at Berea College in Kentucky, where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1903, and then at the University of Chicago, where he received a second bachelor’s and a master’s degree in 1908.
He earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1912—the second African American, after W.E.B. Du Bois, to do so. In 1915 he and four others founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (today called the Association for the Study of African American Life and History), which encouraged scholars to engage in the intensive study of the Black past.
This area of study had previously been largely neglected or distorted in the hands of historians who accepted and perpetuated a biased picture of Black people’s role in and influence on American and world affairs. In 1916 Woodson edited the first issue of the association’s principal scholarly publication, The Journal of Negro History, which, under his direction, remained an important historical periodical for more than 30 years; it was renamed The Journal of African American History in 2002. In 1937 he launched The Negro History Bulletin (renamed Black History Bulletin in 2002).