Carter G. Woodson
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Carter G. Woodson was born in New Canton, Virginia on December 19, 1875, the son of former slaves Anne Eliza (Riddle) and James Henry Woodson. His parents were both illiterate and his father, who had helped the Union soldiers during the Civil War, supported the family as a carpenter and farmer. The Woodson family was extremely poor, but proud as both his parents told him that it was the happiest day of their lives when they became free. His sister was the poet, teacher and activist Bessie Woodson Yancey. Woodson was often unable to attend primary school regularly so as to help out on the farm. Nonetheless, through self-instruction, he was able to master most school subjects.
He was Bornt in Virginia, the son of former slaves, Woodson had to put off schooling while he worked in the coal mines of West Virginia. He graduated from Berea College, and became a teacher and school administrator. He gained graduate degrees at the University of Chicago and in 1912 was the second African American, after W. E. B. Du Bois, to obtain a PhD degree from Harvard University. Woodson remains the only person whose parents were enslaved in the US to obtain a PhD. Most of Woodson's academic career was spent at Howard University, a historically black university in Washington, D.C., where he eventually served as the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
At the age of seventeen, Woodson followed his older brother Robert Henry to Huntington, West Virginia, where he hoped to attend Douglass High School, a secondary school for African Americans founded there. Woodson was forced to work in the coal mines at Huntington, which left little time for pursuing an education. At the age of twenty in 1895, Woodson was finally able to enter Douglass High School full-time and received his diploma in 1897. From his graduation in 1897 until 1900, Woodson was employed as a teacher at a school in Winona, West Virginia. His career advanced further in 1900 when he was selected to become the principal of Douglass High School, the place where he had started his academic career.