Carter G. Woodson: Chapter 10- The Loss of Vision pt 1

It’s Black History Month, so I am continuing with the series of posts regarding Shaw resident and Father of Black History, Carter G. Woodson and his book The Mis-Education of the Negro, published in 1933.

Oh let’s just dive right into his criticisms of “educated” and “highly educated” African Americans:

In our day, however, we find some “highly educated” Negroes approving such Jim-Crowism. For example, not many years ago an outstanding Baptist preacher, dabbling in politics in West Virginia, suggested to the whites that they enact a Jim Crow car law in that State, and we had difficulty in crushing that sentiment. A few years thereafter the author heard one of our bishops say that we should not object to such separation, for we want to be by ourselves. When this distinguished churchman died the traducers of the Negro lauded him to the skies; and thoughtless members of the race, thinking that he deserved it, joined in the loud acclaim.

In this way the large majority of “educated” Negroes in the United States have accepted segregation and have become its fearless champions. Their filled but undeveloped minds do not enable them to understand that, although an opiate furnishes temporary relief, it does not remove the cause of the pain. In this case we have yielded on principle to satisfy the mob, but have not yet found an ultimate solution of the problem at hand. In our so-called democracy we are accustomed to give the majority what they want rather than educate them to understand what is best for them. We do not show the Negro how to overcome segregation, but we teach him how to accept it as final and just.

and Continue reading Carter G. Woodson: Chapter 10- The Loss of Vision pt 1

Carter G. Woodson- Chapter 9: Political Education Neglected part 2

It’s Black History Month, so I am continuing with the series of posts regarding Shaw resident and Father of Black History, Carter G. Woodson and his book The Mis-Education of the Negro, published in 1933.

As I mentioned in the previous post, this one will look for his complaints about “educated” African Americans. Let’s get to it.

The effect of such a one-sided system is decidedly bad. One does not realize it until he talks with men and women of these districts, who because of the denial of these privileges have lost interest in political matters. A book agent working in the plantation area of Mississippi tested the knowledge of Negroes of these matters by asking them questions about the local and State government. He discovered that they knew practically nothing in this sphere. It was difficult to find any who knew who was president of the United States. One meets teachers, physicians, and ministers who do not know the ordinary operations of courts, the functions of the counsel, jury or judge, unless such knowledge has come by the bitter experience of having been imposed upon by some tribunal of injustice. Some of the “educated” Negroes do not pay attention to such important matters as “the assessment of property and the collection of taxes, and they do not inform themselves as to how these things are worked out. An influential Negro in the South, then, is one who has nothing to do or say about politics and advises others to follow the same course.

and

Instead of doing something to get rid of this ilk, however, we find the “highly educated” Negroes trying to plunge also into the mire. One of the most discouraging aspects in Negro life recently observed was that of a presidential campaign. Prominent Negroes connected with three of our leading institutions of learning temporarily abandoned their work to round up Negro votes for one of the candidates. The objective, of course, was to control the few ordinary jobs which are allotted to Negro politicians for their campaign services. When the successful candidate had been inaugurated, however, he carefully ignored them in the make-up of the personnel of his administration and treated Negroes in general with contempt. When you think of the fact that the Negroes who are being thus used are supposedly the most reputable Negro leaders and our most highly educated men you have to wonder whether the Negro has made any progress since Emancipation. The only consolation one can get out of it is that they may not represent the whole race.

Woodson also points out problems with history and general education that also plays a part in African American citizens being ignorant of political matters. And it seems from the above paragraphs the educated AfAms in the North and South weren’t particularly helpful in educating their fellow citizens.

What those Blacks with some political sway did have was an interest in playing politics. Woodson saw them as corruptionists.

In the North the Negroes have a better chance to acquire knowledge of political matters of the simple kind, but the bosses do not think it is advisable to enlighten them thoroughly. Negroes in parts are employed in campaigns, but they are not supposed to discuss such issues of the day as free trade, tariff for protection, the World Court, and the League of Nations. These Negro workers are supposed to tell their people how one politician seeking office has appointed more Negro messengers or charwomen in the service than the other or how the grandfather of the candidate stood with Lincoln and Grant through their ordeal and thus brought the race into its own. Another important task of these Negroes thus employed is also to abuse the opposing party, showing how hostile it has been to the Negro while the highly favorable party was doing so much for the race.

I’d like to remind you, this is the 1930s. Prior to the Voting Rights Act there were African Americans voting and in Congress. Black history tends to get boiled down to slavery, the Civil War and Emancipation, Brown v. Board of Education and the 60s Civil Rights movement. If you’re lucky you might get the Harlem Renaissance, the Great Migration, and portraits of Blacks who aren’t Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This is a long winded way of saying that one doesn’t tend to think about what African Americans were doing between those big events. There were Blacks involved in politics, but to Woodson, they were just engaging in piddling matters.

Carter G. Woodson- Chapter 9: Political Education Neglected part 1

It’s Black History Month, so I am continuing with the series of posts regarding Shaw resident and Father of Black History, Carter G. Woodson and his book The Mis-Education of the Negro, published in 1933.

The first two paragraphs of chapter 9:

Some time ago when Congressman Oscar De Priest was distributing by thousands copies of the Constitution of the United States certain wiseacres were disposed to make fun of it. What purpose would such an act serve? These critics, however, probably did not know that thousands and thousands of Negro children in this country are not permitted to use school books in which are printed the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution of the United States. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison are mentioned in their history as figures in politics rather than as expounders of liberty and freedom. These youths are not permitted to learn that Jefferson believed that government should derive its power from the consent of the governed.

Not long ago a measure was introduced in a certain State Legislature to have the Constitution of the United States thus printed in school histories, but when the bill was about to pass it was killed by some one who made the point that it would never do to have Negroes study the Constitution of the United States. If the Negroes were granted the opportunity to peruse this document, they might learn to contend for the rights therein guaranteed; and no Negro teacher who gives attention to such matters of the government is tolerated in those backward districts. The teaching of government or the lack of such instruction, then, must be made to conform to the policy of “keeping the Negro in his place.”

After looking at disappointing test scores for African American males at local public and charter schools, in my worst thoughts, I was under the impression that some folks were unaware that it was legal to teach Blacks to read. And if the population cannot read, they cannot read the nation’s founding documents, nor appreciate them. And if a man can’t appreciate the Constitution, he is ignorant of his rights as an American. It appears the powers that were in the 1930s were set to keep Blacks ignorant of their rights by keeping the Constitution out of the schools.

In the previous chapter Dr. Woodson noted how the dominate racial group had put hurdles in the path of Black lawyers. This as another way to deny the Black man his rights, by denying him his 6th Amendment right to council, of his own race.

Fast forward to now. America has tons of African American lawyers. However, the Constitution and America’s Founding Fathers, such as Jefferson and Madison have fallen out of fashion.

In my next post I will look for this book’s trademark swipe at “educated” African Americans in this chapter. At this point it is almost a drinking game.

Carter G. Woodson- Chapter 8: Professional Education Discouraged

It’s Black History Month, so I am continuing with the series of posts regarding Shaw resident and Father of Black History, Carter G. Woodson and his book The Mis-Education of the Negro, published in 1933.

Carter G. Woodson as a young man
Carter G. Woodson as a young man

I’m going to look at the title of this and get to a couple of paragraphs that show where African Americans were discouraged from investing in themselves, to hone their craft. Dr. Woodson does mention other “professions” in the professional class, but the points are with the artists.

In music, dramatics and correlated arts, too, the Negro has been unfortunately misled. Because the Negro is gifted as a singer and can render more successfully than others the music of his own people, he has been told that he does not need training. Scores of those who have undertaken to function in this sphere without adequate education, then, have developed only to a certain point beyond which they have not had ability to go. We cannot easily estimate how popular Negro musicians and their music might have become had they been taught to the contrary.

But I can think back to his example in Chapter 7 of a Virginia preacher who was talented, went to school and was the worse for it. In some cases, where the musician can’t read or transcribe music, I can see where more training would make him/her a better artist. However, I can also see how it can take a talented & popular jazz musician and turn him into an insufferable so-in-so who refuses to play anything the masses want to hear.

We have long had the belief that the Negro is a natural actor who does not require any stimulus for further development. In this assertion is the idea that because the Negro is good at dancing, joking, minstrelsy and the like he is “in his place” when “cutting a shine” and does not need to be trained to function in the higher sphere of dramatics. Thus misled, large numbers of Negroes ambitious for the stage have not bloomed forth into great possibilities. Too many of them have finally ended with rôles in questionable cafés, cabarets, and night clubs of America and Europe; and instead of increasing the prestige of the Negro they have brought the race into disgrace.

Josephine Baker, notable dancer

Is he throwing shade at Josephine Baker? Okay maybe not just her, personally, but that’s some level of shade. He also says, “The large majority of Negroes have settled down, then, to contentment as ordinary clowns and comedians. They have not had the courage or they have not learned how to break over the unnatural barriers and occupy higher ground.” Not everyone can be a pretentious artist who plays undanceable jazz or performs confusing choreography. Woodson is writing in the 1930s and this sort of criticism of Black comedians and artists (musicians, dancers, actors, etc) hasn’t gone out of style.

On a more serious (not that the entertainment industry isn’t serious) note, Woodson remarks on the discouragement in other professions that have more of an impact on the Black community.

Negroes, then, learned from their oppressors to say to their children that there were certain spheres into which they should not go because they would have no chance therein for development. In a number of places young men were discouraged and frightened away from certain professions by the poor showing made by those trying to function in them. Few had the courage to face this ordeal; and some professional schools in institutions for Negroes were closed about thirty or forty years ago, partly on this account.

This was especially true of the law schools, closed during the wave of legislation against the Negro, at the very time the largest possible number of Negroes needed to know the law for the protection of their civil and political rights….

When the doors are closed, that limits where the talented and capable can go. “The largest numbers of Negroes in professions other than the ministry or education are physicians, dentists, pharmacists, lawyers and actors.”

This chapter is not missing the usual swipe at ‘educated’ Blacks.

…there are many Negroes who still follow those early teachings, especially the “highly educated” who in school have been given the “scientific” reasons for it. It is a most remarkable process that while in one department of a university a Negro may be studying for a profession, in another department of the same university he is being shown how the Negro professional man cannot succeed. Some of the “highly educated,” then, give their practice to those who are often inferior to the Negroes whom they thus pass by. Although there has been an increase in these particular spheres, however, the professions among Negroes, with the exception of teaching and preaching, are still undermanned.

 

Carter G. Woodson- Chapter 7: Dissension and Weakness

It’s Black History Month, so I am continuing with the series of posts regarding Shaw resident and Father of Black History, Carter G. Woodson and his book The Mis-Education of the Negro, published in 1933.

In the last chapter we looked at the institution of the Black church. Woodson continues on the topic but goes into the problem of a dis-united church and other problems.

In recent years the churches in enlightened centres have devoted less attention to dissension than formerly, but in the rural districts and small cities they have not changed much; and neither in urban communities nor in the country has any one succeeded in bringing these churches together to work for their general welfare. The militant sects are still fighting one another, and in addition to this the members of these sects are contending among themselves. The spirit of Christ cannot dwell in such an atmosphere.

I shrug at this. Even in the Bible early Christians were divided, so…. Anyway, Woodson is critical of the quality of the church leaders, usually the preacher. “Because our “highly educated” people do not do this, large numbers of Negroes drift into churches led by the “uneducated” ministers who can scarcely read and write.” And he doesn’t let up on criticism of the “educated”, as usual.

In a rural community, then, a preacher of this type must fail unless he can organize separately members of the popular Methodist and Baptist churches who go into the ritualistic churches or establish certain “refined” Methodist or Baptist churches catering to the “talented tenth.” For lack of adequate numbers, however, such churches often fail to develop sufficient force to do very much for themselves or for anybody else. On Sunday morning, then, their pastors have to talk to the benches. While these truncated churches go higher in their own atmosphere of self-satisfaction the mentally undeveloped are left to sink lower because of the lack of contact with the better trained. If the latter exercised a little more judgment, they would be able to influence these people for good by gradually introducing advanced ideas.

When he mentions W.E.B. DuBois’ “talented tenth” it comes off as a swipe and a continuation of his frustration with “educated” African Americans. He’s not fond of the uneducated preacher either. No wonder people think he was an atheist, which I do not.

I think Woodson was unconvinced about the validity of the Christian faith by his observations of Christian practitioners and by the fact it was obtained from the white majority.

It is very clear, then, that if Negroes got their conception of religion from slaveholders, libertines, and murderers, there may be something wrong about it, and it would not hurt to investigate it. It has been said that the Negroes do not connect morals with religion. The historian would like to know what race or nation does such a thing. Certainly the whites with whom the Negroes have come into contact have not done so.

 

 

Carter G. Woodson- Chapter 6: The Educated Negro Leaves the Masses

It’s Black History Month, so I am continuing with the series of posts regarding Shaw resident and Father of Black History, Carter G. Woodson and his book The Mis-Education of the Negro, published in 1933. Don’t let the title fool you this is about church.

Religion is but religion, if the people live up to the faith they profess.- Carter G. Woodson

Wikipedia uses as a citation for the claim that Woodson was an outspoken critic of the Christian Church a site that provides no deep research to back up that claim. Woodson was an expert in the subject of the Black church, having had written The History of the Negro Church, published in 1921. He had strong and valid criticisms but I haven’t seen much to support the claim he was an atheist, but rather more of an agnostic who was very disappointed with the Negro church.

In this chapter I can see where Woodson sees a great value in the Black Church because, “the Negro church is the only institution the race controls.” Once again he is annoyed at the educated AfAms (when isn’t he?) who leave the Negro church for more “ritualistic” denominations. Those being Catholic and Episcopal churches. Me: Guilty as charged. Mainly because Black people church is too damned long.

Woodson mentions he once visited ” in Washington, D. C., one of the popular Negro churches with a membership of several thousands“. I wonder was it maybe Shiloh Baptist? I mean he wouldn’t have to cross the street to pop in. Anyway, at this unnamed Black church he could only spot two college graduates in attendance, and they were only there to get something (fund raising and charity).

I can read Woodson’s frustration with the Black church. “The Negro church, however, although not a shadow of what it ought to be, is the great asset of the race.” He sees the church’s potential as an organizing body and how it could serve the Black race (theology shmeology), but can’t ignore the hypocrisy, charleton preachers, and other human failings and shortcomings that come along with the Black church and church in general.

Let’s ignore Woodson’s lack of adherence to any faith and get to the topic of the book and this chapter, criticizing college educated Black people. Black church was where the Black masses were. It was the most powerful institution controlled by African Americans. Where were the “mis-educated” educated Afro-Americans, not in the Black Baptist and Black Methodist churches. A theme throughout The Mis-Education of the Negro is that the college educated Black people lose contact and are out of touch with the common Black person.

Maybe next year I should explore his book on the history of the Black church.

I was raised in the Black Baptist church and am currently a Roman Catholic, who had a short detour with the Episcopalians, so there are some things in this chapter I want to address before closing. Woodson pointed out that the problem with the Catholic and Episcopalian churches was that a Black man’s rise was limited. This problem has been since rectified. The current presiding Archbishop of the Episcopal church is an African American man, Michael Curry. And the current Archbishop of Washington, DC, Cardinal Wilton Gregory (the 1st AfAm cardinal) heads the Roman Catholic diocese. There has been some advancement for African Americans since Woodson published his book.

Carter G. Woodson- Chapter 5: The Failure to Learn to Make a Living part 2

It’s Black History Month, so I am continuing with the series of posts regarding Shaw resident and Father of Black History, Carter G. Woodson and his book The Mis-Education of the Negro, published in 1933.

Continuing from part 1, which was covering the first of two themes I pulled from this chapter. The second theme was that college educated were a drag on Black businesses.

Woodson presents us with this scene:

Recently the author saw the need for a change of attitude when a young woman came almost directly to his office after her graduation from a business school to seek employment. After hearing her story he finally told her that he would give her a trial at fifteen dollars a week.

“Fifteen dollars a week!” she cried, “I cannot live on that, sir.”

“I do not see why you cannot,” he replied. “You have lived for some time already, and you say that you have never had permanent employment, and you have none at all now.”

“But a woman has to dress and to pay board,” said she; “and how can she do it on such a pittance?”

The amount offered was small, but it was a great deal more than she is worth at present. In fact, during the first six or nine months of her connection with some enterprise it will be of more service to her than she will be to the firm. Coming out of school without experience, she will be a drag on a business until she learns to discharge some definite function in it. Instead of requiring the firm to pay her she should pay it for training her. Negro business today, then, finds the “mis-educated employees” its heaviest burden. Thousands of graduates of white business schools spend years in establishments in undergoing apprenticeship without pay and rejoice to have the opportunity thus to learn how to do things.

I’m not sure if HBCUs were offering valuable internship programs at the time. Education is great, but from my own experience, internship programs provide some thin proof the student knows how to do real work. Woodson mentions an unfortunate job program for HBCU graduates.

Not long ago a firm of Washington, D. C., appealed to the graduates of several of our colleges and offered them an inviting proposition on the commission basis, but only five of the hundreds appealed to responded and only two of the five gave satisfaction. Another would have succeeded, but he was not honest in handling money because he had learned to purloin the treasury of the athletic organization while in college. All of the others, however, were anxious to serve somewhere in an office for a small wage a week.

Insert Picard Picard facepalm. Continue reading Carter G. Woodson- Chapter 5: The Failure to Learn to Make a Living part 2

Carter G. Woodson- Chapter 5: The Failure to Learn to Make a Living part 1

It’s Black History Month, so I am continuing with the series of posts regarding Shaw resident and Father of Black History, Carter G. “Grumpypants” Woodson and his book The Mis-Education of the Negro, published in 1933. I’ll get to the grumpy pants part later. Here’s a link to Woodson’s Wikipedia page, but I’d like to flesh out the history of Black History Month.

Prior to 1926, when Woodson created Negro History Week, he had already laid the foundation for African-American history scholarship with the founding of Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) in 1915. Negro History Week was to be the same week when Americans were celebrating the birthday of President Abraham Lincoln (2/12/1809) and Orator and Abolitionist Frederick Douglass (2/14?/1818). It is not just a matter of suggesting Negro History Week, he and the ASALH promoted it so that it became a regular observance. In the 60s it unofficially expanded into a whole month and in 1976 President Gerald Ford made the month official.

But back to Woodson and this book and this chapter. Once again, Woodson has bad things to say about Black college graduates and praise for Black business. I’m going to split this into two posts because there are two themes in this chapter. The first theme is AfAm college graduates are somewhat useless to the Black race. The second is related, AfAm college graduates are a drain if not a detriment to Black business. Yes, surprising from the father of Black history, if you knew nothing else about him. He makes a fairly good point in his argument and his goal is ultimately the betterment of the Black/Negro race. However, you’re not going to get to a better place with false praise and excuses. Let’s get into this. Continue reading Carter G. Woodson- Chapter 5: The Failure to Learn to Make a Living part 1

Carter G. Woodson- Chapter 4: Education Under Outside Control

This is a series regarding Shaw resident Carter G. Woodson’s book The Mis-Education of the Negro.

Okay, I’d rename this chapter “Beware of Allies Trying to Do You Favors”.  Now I feel I should quote Malcolm X or something on the topic of white Americans who are supposed to be supporting you.

So this chapter comes across as a criticism of sorts of all the Northerners and others who came down after the Civil War. Woodson acknowledges that they meant well, but they weren’t well suited for the task. This extended to the white leadership and faculty of HBCUs because of the social status differences.

Yet we should not take the position that a qualified white person should not teach in a Negro school. For certain work which temporarily some whites may be able to do better than the Negroes there can be no objection to such service, but if the Negro is to be forced to live in the ghetto he can more easily develop out of it under his own leadership than under that which is super-imposed. The Negro will never be able to show all of his originality as long as his efforts are directed from without by those who socially proscribe him. Such “friends” will unconsciously keep him in the ghetto.

I have thoughts but I will leave those to the end. Continue reading Carter G. Woodson- Chapter 4: Education Under Outside Control

Carter G. Woodson- Chapter 3: How We Drifted Away From The Truth

This is a series regarding Shaw resident Carter G. Woodson’s book The Mis-Education of the Negro. This post is rated PG-13 for language.

According to Ancestry DNA African American ancestors hail from Cameroon/Congo, Nigeria, and Ivory Coast/ Ghana, sub-Saharan parts of Africa. However, they didn’t have DNA tests in the 1930s, so Carter G. Woodson would not have known this. Even if he did, it probably would not have stopped him from being a booster for all of Africa.

So in this 3rd chapter Woodson is critical of the Eurocentric nature of history and other subjects being taught. His very valid points:

In geography the races were described in conformity with the program of the usual propaganda to engender in whites a race hate of the Negro, and in the Negroes contempt for themselves. A poet of distinction was selected to illustrate the physical features of the white race, a bedecked chief of a tribe those of the red a proud warrior the brown, a prince the yellow, and a savage with a ring in his nose the black the Negro, of course, stood at the foot of the social ladder.

However there is a very practical problem. Literacy. Until someone literate shows up (usually to bitch about you) your history is limited to the best guesses of the anthropologists. Feel free to correct me in the comments, Continue reading Carter G. Woodson- Chapter 3: How We Drifted Away From The Truth