Google honored the late Carter Woodson on Thursday as the father of Black History Month as it kicked off February. But those in Augusta and Paine College have an even closer link to Woodson through an administrator there.
The Google Doodle on Thursday was an illustration “celebrating Carter G. Woodson” who is widely credited for starting what became Black History Month, which is observed this month. R. Wayne Woodson, the great-nephew of the famed historian, serves as Paine’s Dean of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management and also directs the college’s Concert Choir. Like his father before him, he has taken up the family mantle to teach young people about black history and figures that are often overlooked.
Carter Woodson got the ball rolling in 1926 with Negro History Week during February and that later became Black History Month in 1976. But his great-nephew said the original concept was that people would learn that history throughout the year and then use the week that was set aside to discuss what they had learned. He conducts programs for high school and middle school students around the country and finds it is still not being taught or talked about regularly.
“I think sadly that it is still an issue,” Woodson said. “Even if we currently look at mainstream history textbooks and documents that are used, they still omit a lot of that history, which means that as much as I would like to say Black History Month should not still be necessary, it clearly is because we still do not have equality in terms of the history of this country. Even on this campus, when I am talking to some of our freshman, there are people they have never heard of.”
Or they may be unaware of the role Augusta and Paine played in that history. Civil rights icon the Rev. Joseph Lowery, for instance, spent his undergraduate years at Paine, Woodson said. People likely know of his work with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he said.
“But what we don’t realize is he started a lot of that work here on this very campus in terms of working for civil rights and freedom for all people,” Woodson said. “I do work very hard on this campus to make sure our students are aware of that connection.”
People know of Coretta Scott King as Dr. King’s widow but often overlook how she carried on his work the rest of her life and was a leader in her own right, he said.
“So often we forget about the ‘sheroes’ who are part of that work,” Woodson said. “Often I find when I am talking to groups that a lot of young African-American women don’t know or don’t think about their connection to that history because sometimes they are omitted from it. I think it is very important that we remember that as well.”
Black History Month tends to focus on people who are already gone but it is important to remember that many of the “trailblazers” are still around and that history is being made every day, he said.
“History is a living thing and if we can just get people to understand that, that might help bridge this connection that at the end of the day we are all part of American history,” Woodson said.
Thursday was a busy day and Woodson didn’t even see the Google honor until someone pointed it out to him so it was a nice surprise.
“I’m so used to it that I forget a lot of people still recognize his connection and what he did for black history specifically and American history in general so it still makes me very proud,” he said.
Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or email@example.com