Early Chicago: The "Father of Black History"

The Father of Black History

(Source: National Archives)

Historian, author, and educator Carter G. Woodson, known as the "father of African American history" stayed at the Wabash Avenue YMCA during his frequent visits to Chicago. His experiences in Bronzeville and at the Wabash YMCA provided support and inspiration for his lifelong work.

The son of former slaves, Woodson was awarded a master's degree from the University of Chicago and was the second African American to receive a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University. Woodson was the first scholar to recognize the importance of documenting and teaching black history.

In the summer of 1915, Woodson gathered a small group of men in the office of the director of the Wabash Avenue YMCA to discuss the formation of a national black history society. On September 9, he and four colleagues co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History).

One year later — having invested his own time, money, and talent — Woodson launched the Journal of Negro History (renamed The Journal of African American History).

In 1926, Woodson started Negro History Week, the forerunner to Black History Month. It was Woodson's belief that "the achievements of the Negro properly set forth will crown him as a factor in early human progress and a maker of modern civilization."