Monday, February 2, 2009

The History of Black History

Lesson 01 of 26 History of Black History from our online Black History Class

The American Negro must remake his past in order to make his future . . . History must restore what slavery took away. - Arthur Schomburg

Black History, as we currently know it, has it's main roots in four figures. Three men, one woman. Three were African-Americans (by today's standards), one was a Puerto Rican. Many others influenced these figures, yet we focus on these four. The Great Grandfather of Black History is W.E.B Dubois. The Grandfather of Black History is Arturo Schomberg. The Mother of Black History is Drusilla Houston, and the Father of Black History is Carter G. Woodson.

Simply put in 1903 W.E.B. DuBois published a book named "The Souls of Black Folk." Dubois' book taught and inspired both the Puerto-Rican Arturo Schomberg, and the Woman-Journalist Drusilla Houston. The writing of Dubois, and the research of Schomberg taught and inspired Woodson, who created Negro History week with some assistance from members of Woodson's fraternity Omega Psi Phi and others who supported Woodson's activities. As a Pan-Hellenic side note, W.E.B. Dubois is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, Arturo Schomberg is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi.

Woodson's later activities, most notably the initiation of Negro History Week, have inspired people of African descent worldwide to improve self-racial pride and laid the foundation for the United States of America to recognize February as Black History month. Houston's works have inspired many scholars, particularly scholars who have studied African and African-diaspora history, to further the scholarly work associated with Black History. Put very simply, Woodson's activities reached the common person and general cultural aptitude, while Houston's work reached the scholars.

It's interesting to note that the Mother and Father of Black History had some difficulties. Woodson dismissed Houston as a “historian without portfolio” and didn't consider her to be a serious historian. As Woodson introduced Negro History week in 1926, Houston published her groundbreaking burst on the historical literary scene with Volume I of her magnum opus "Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Empire Book 1: Nations of the Cushite Empire, Marvelous Facts from Authentic Records". Daddy started Black History week, Mama provided the ancient information that supported Black History week.

Drusilla Dunjee (later Houston) was born on January 20, 1876 in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. Her parents were Rev. John William Dunjee and Lydia Taylor Dunjee. Houston was always fearful that her works would be lost and forgotten and that they would never reach the audience she desired, namely the children. To some extent she was correct. On February 11, 1941, Houston died in Arizona after years of illness from Tuberculosis. True to faith, her grave reads: “To Die is to Gain.” Visit for more information on The Mother of Black History.

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was born on February 23, 1868, in Great Barrington, at the southwestern edge of Massachusetts, to Alfred Du Bois and Mary Silvina Burghardt Du Bois. Du Bois was born and grew up in the overwhelmingly white town of Barrington, Massachusetts. Mary Silvina Burghardt's family was part of the very small, free black population of Great Barrington and had long owned land in the state. They descended from Dutch and African ancestors, including Tom, a West African-born man who served as a private for Captain John Spoor's company in 1780, a service which likely won him his freedom. According to Du Bois, several of his maternal ancestors were notably involved in regional history.Alfred Du Bois, from Haiti, was of French Huguenot and African descent.

Schomburg was born in the (previously predominately "Black") town of Santurce, Puerto Rico (now part of San Juan) to María Josefa, a freeborn Black midwife from St. Croix, and Carlos Féderico Schomburg, a bi-racial merchant of German heritage. Schomburg was educated at San Juan's Instituto Popular, where he learned commercial printing, and at St. Thomas College in the Danish-ruled Virgin Islands, where he studied Negro Literature. During grade school one of his teachers claimed that blacks had no history, heroes or accomplishments; this patently false claim inspired Schomburg's life-long quest to find the truth and to document the accomplishments of African-Latinos, such as Jose Campeche and later of Afro-Americans.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Born to parents who were former slaves, he spent his childhood working in the Kentucky coal mines and enrolled in high school at age twenty. He graduated within two years and earned a Ph.D. from Harvard. The scholar was disturbed to find in his studies that history books largely ignored the black American population-and when blacks did figure into the picture, it was generally in ways that reflected the inferior social position they were assigned at the time. Woodson decided to take on the challenge of writing black Americans into the nation's history. He established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now called the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History) in 1915, and a year later founded the widely respected Journal of Negro History. In 1926, he launched Negro History Week as an initiative to bring national attention to the contributions of black people throughout American history. Woodson chose the second week of February for Negro History Week because it marks the birthdays of two men who greatly influenced the black American population, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

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