He was born on Dec. 19, 1875, in New Canton, Virginia, to Anna Eliza Riddle Woodson and James Woodson. His parents were former slaves and he was the fourth of seven children.
According to Biography.com Woodson worked as a miner and sharecropper to help his family out as a young kid, but when he made it to high school, he finished the four-year study in less than two years.
Woodson continued his education studying history and in 1912 became only the second black person to earn a doctorate from Harvard following the accomplishment by W.E.B. DuBois.
But perhaps his most notable achievement came in 1926. It was then that Woodson first turned to his former fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, which created Negro History and Literature Week in 1924, to get the message out. But Woodson was still not satisfied and wanted “a wider celebration” and decided the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which he helped found in Chicago, should “take on the task itself.”
For the celebration Woodson selected the month of February to honor the birth months of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln. The program would later expand to become Black History Month.
Woodson always believed that African-American history had been neglected and misrepresented in academia and wrote several books on African-American subjects throughout his career. One of his more notable works was “The Education of the Negro prior to 1861” written by Woodson and his colleague Alexander L. Jackson and considered a pivotal work.
Woodson believed that racism was the result of a flawed education system but could also be overcome through education. “Race prejudice,” he concluded, “is merely the logical result of tradition, the inevitable outcome of thorough instruction to the effect that the Negro has never contributed anything to the progress of mankind. Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.”
Woodson, the father of Black History, died of a heart attack on April 3, 1950 he was 75.