The Book: The thesis of Dr. Woodson’s book is that African-Americans of his day were being culturally indoctrinated, rather than taught, in American schools. This conditioning, he claims, causes African-Americans to become dependent and to seek out inferior places in the greater society of which they are a part. He challenges his readers to become autodidacts and to “do for themselves”, regardless of what they were taught: History shows that it does not matter who is in power… those who have not learned to do for themselves and have to depend solely on others never obtain any more rights or privileges in the end than they did in the beginning.
#1 Half the battle is in our mind.
“If you make a man think he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one.”
#2 We should support our own businesses.
“In the schools of business administration Negroes are trained exclusively in the psychology and economics of Wall Street and are, therefore, made to despise the opportunities to run ice wagons, push banana carts, and sell peanuts among their own people. Foreigners, who have not studied economics but have studied Negroes, take up this business and grow rich.”
#3 Education is supposed to empower us not make us dependent on getting a job.
“The first indictment of such education as Negroes have received, however, is that they have thereby learned little as to making a living, the first essential in civilization.”
“Investigation has shown, however, that men who have the doctorate not only lose touch with the common people, but they do not do as much creative work as those of less formal education. After having this honor bestowed upon them, these so called scholars often rest upon their oars.
#4 We should work together as a community.
“When a white person sees persons of his own race trending downward to a level of disgrace he does not rest until he works out some plan to lift such unfortunates to higher ground ; but the negro forgets the delinquents of his race and goes his way to feather his own nest”
ABOUT CARTER G. WOODSON
- He was the son of former slaves, James and Eliza Riddle Woodson
- He was too poor to attend school regularly so he taught himself for only a few months out of the year
- Enrolled in High School at the age of 20 and graduated in less than two years
- Graduated with an an A.B. and A.M. in 1908 from the University of Chicago
- completed his PhD in history at Harvard University in 1912, where he was the second African American (after W.E.B. Du Bois) to earn a doctorate degree.