Carter G. Woodson – Chapter 2: How We Missed the Mark

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

In this chapter Woodson looks at the history of education for African Americans after the Civil War. I just finished an audiobook that threw general criticism of Southern education, and Woodson does here too a bit. “The participation of the freedmen in government for a few years during the period known as the Reconstruction had little bearing on their situation except that they did join with the uneducated poor whites in bringing about certain much-desired social reforms, especially in giving the South its first plan of democratic education in providing for a school system at public expense.

In this chapter, the way I’m reading it, Woodson is not happy with the practicality of AfAm education, in addition to the quality.

Others more narrow-minded than the advocates of industrial education, seized upon the idea, feeling that, although the Negro must have some semblance of education, it would be a fine stroke to be able to make a distinction between the training given the Negro and that provided for the whites. Inasmuch as the industrial educational idea rapidly gained ground, too, many Negroes for political purposes began to espouse it; and schools and colleges hoping thereby to obtain money worked out accordingly makeshift provisions for such instruction, although they could not satisfactorily offer it. A few real industrial schools actually equipped themselves for this work and turned out a number of graduates with such preparation.


.. The schools in which they were educated could not provide for all the experience with machinery which white apprentices trained in factories had. Such industrial education as these Negroes received, then, was merely to master a technique already discarded in progressive centres [sic]; and even in less complicated operations of industry these schools had no such facilities as to parallel the numerous processes of factories conducted on the plan of the division of labor. Except what value such training might have in the development of the mind by making practical applications of mathematics and science, then, it was a failure.

The classical schools apparently were no better. But I disagree with his statement, “On the other hand, in spite of much classical education of the Negroes we do not find in the race a large supply of thinkers and philosophers. ” Okay in the 1930s the thinkers of his time were more activists, such as W.E.B. Du Bois. And several others who added to the American intellectual sphere had not been born yet. I cannot think of any country, besides the United States, where formally educated members of the African diaspora added so much to Anglo speaking thought and discourse. The Harlem Renaissance was still fresh and difficult to judge it’s influence and importance.

2 thoughts on “Carter G. Woodson – Chapter 2: How We Missed the Mark”

    1. Yeah. He’s a bit of a grump, but he wouldn’t have achieved what he did without being so. He has valid points. Education was Euro-centric and the HBCUs weren’t preparing students for the job market of that time.
      Thanks for the link, I will take a look at it.

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