Jacqueline Goggin, Carter G. Woodson: A Life in Black History

By Williams, Vernon J., Jr. | Afro-Americans in New York Life and History, July 31, 1994 | Go to article overview

Jacqueline Goggin, Carter G. Woodson: A Life in Black History


Williams, Vernon J., Jr., Afro-Americans in New York Life and History


Jacqueline Goggin, Carter G. Woodson: A Life in Black History

In this succinct biography, Jacqueline Goggin, who is affiliated with the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute of Harvard University and is the managing editor of the Harvard Guide to Afro-American History, presents a nuanced account of the life and scholarship of the irascible father of black history. And, although she traverses ground familiar to scholars and persons who have read Patricia W. Romero's dissertation, Goggin's own dissertation, and August Meier's Black History and the Historical Profession, 1915-1980, she nevertheless advances an interpretation of Woodson which boldly challenges the depiction of him as a mere "entrepreneur."

The son of former Virginia slaves, Woodson successfully lifted himself up from abject poverty to reasonable comfort through sheer pluck, hard work, and perseverance. After receiving degrees from Berea College and the University of Chicago successfully, the capstone of his apprenticeship in the historical profession occurred in 1912, when he received the Ph. D. from Harvard University. Woodson's tenure at the latter institution was not, however, without its intensely emotional conflicts. (In fact, Woodson's entire professional life was marred by monumental conflicts and petty feuding between himself and both black and white educators, philanthropist, subordinates, and activists). For example, at Harvard, Woodson was embroiled in disputes over historical issues with Albert Bushnell Hart, the chairman of Woodson's special examination committee in American History. As a consequence, he failed the examination in that field the first time he took it. Furthermore, Woodson's tenures in the public schools of Washington, D.C., as a professor of history at Howard University, as founder and grantsman for The Journal of Negro History and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, and as an activist were filled with adversarial relationships which molded his acerbic personality. …

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