Founder of Black History Month, Dr. Woodson would go on to write over 20 books detailing Negro history and life. His life story is as much of a classic as this monumental book.
©1933 Carter G. Woodson; (P)2007 Anthony Stewart
I am the author of two books on global issues, who listens to at least a hundred serious non-fiction books a year.
Woodsin uses the question of how black people should be educated to cut to the core of some of the most important debates regarding African-American culture and identity. Some like Booker T. Washington believed black people should focus on learning technical trades. Others wanted black people to learn of classical culture as a means of attaining access to white culture. This debate involved questions of dignity: how might education be used to teach someone the inherent dignity of humanity. And to what extent might the sense of dignity be better acquired through the ability to support oneself through an independent trade.
There are economic questions implicit within this debate to be sure. Learning technical trades might have provided black people with a route into the lower middle class in 1900, but Washington appears to have neglected the fact that just at the time he was advocating learning technical trades those trades were being mechanized. Meanwhile, a classical education may have been used to teach black people to think for themselves. It may have made them better preachers and teachers, the most common work roles amongst educated blacks at the time of writing. However, Woodsin points out the many ways such an education was being used merely to mimic educated white people and how it was failing to be used to help black people better understand themselves and the world in which they were enmeshed. Woodsin focuses much attention on the lack of initiative amongst blacks and the sources of failure of black run businesses. A major source of their failure was, in his opinion, their unrealistic expectations and lack of connection between mind and reality. Whereas they should have been asking themselves how they might increase the sales of a corner stand so as to open up several more, they were studying and trying to imitate the experiences of multi-national businesses. He saw the education black people were receiving at that time as doing almost nothing to prepare them for the sorts of small scale business endeavors in which they were most likely to engage.
Ever-present are the questions of dignity and self-esteem. How is learning perverted in the quest to possess the status of being educated? How might education best teach us to learn? How might education bring the wealth that brings status? And what sort of status truly inspires a high self-regard? Woodsin emphasizes the importance of role models and knowing African and African-American history (he was the founder of African-American history month). He also appears to possess a strong intuitive sense of how education can be made useful. He comes at these questions and numerous others with a rare combination of social critic and exporter to success. This is the best of the American self-help tradition, though it is far deeper than the best of self-help literature.
While the book was written in the early thirties, it is still highly relevant. It is semi-philosophical, semi-sociological. The tone is emphatic and searching. And it should be treated as one moment in the debate amongst W.E.B. Dubois (Souls of Black Folk) and Booker T. Washington (Up From Slavery). Though Woodsin may have been the comparative under-achiever (really an extreme over-achiever in his own right, being probably the best educated black American in his day), this struck me as the deepest of the three books. But why limit yourself to one; they are all very short, the three together being no longer than your average non-fiction audiobook. Having listened to each, you will come away with a deeper understanding, empathy, and respect for the Africa-American experience of achievement and some of the timeless challenges black leaders must continually confront. And best of all, you will be challenged to think, and you will be less willing to settle for easy answers.
I read this book because it was a classic; I came away convinced it is a masterpiece.
I read the book many times but it was refreashing to hear it this time.
One of a kind.
Tried but needed more time.
Excellent. I already recommended the audio book to my friends.
This book is a must read for those that want to know where we came from. Yes it is one mans opinion to how we think and learn but I feel we all fall into some of the pit-falls of the past. I plan on reading and listening to this book over and over. I have a daughter in early childhood education and plan on sharing this book with her.
Never live your life by committee...
I would recommend this book as required reading for every black American. It clearly verbalize the issues we must overcome and the dangerous thinking that will for the most part keep a person in captivity.
How honest the writer was with the subject matter. Dr. Woodson gives a frank and honest look at how the American philosophy for success was never meant to be applied to the black man. Therefore the black man would have to create a foundation of their own.
This book left me amazed, at how little we've changed over the 80 years since the writing of this book.
Read the BOOK...
This book is pretty interesting, in it are a lot of truths. I found this book more informative than practical. A mix of psychology and something else.
Good to know, but not very helpful in making true change.
It worth the listen.
With so much of Black history covered and manipulated, this book address one of the fundamental issues to protecting Blacks as a people group: The willingness to think independent of what society dictates. Loved it
Do not let the title mis-lead you. This book is not only for people of color. This book is for every person that ever has or will come in contact with a person of color. This is a great tool to erode away at the walls of racism that have separated men. Third most powerful book I have ever read. Absolutely on the short list of great works in history. I have read It or listened to it over a dozen times and will revisit it again and again in the future.
Being black African and adopted into a European household, it's interesting to hear the issues raised in this book. It's interesting to have someone voice what others are thinking and to decide how you will respond. I did not grow up with the slave mentality but once entered into Medical School and graduated, any wrong footing was cast into a derogatory stereotypical box. I am grateful to those who believed in me but can see how one is on their own as they advance up the ranks. This I understand comes with hierarchy anyway but when working with other blacks, some do as the author depicts ' tear you down.'
"Eye opening view of the hard to swallow truth"
As a father of a teenage boy and a daughter of toddler age, I am someone interested in the state of education and this is a fantastic book for those who have a thirst for knowledge!! I work in a school and have struggled with the relevance of the curriculum to black students and the limits of the history that we are taught. This book has answered some questions and raised others, all while remaining level headed, informative and on topic. No matter your ethnicity, this book will challange your mind to look deeper at what you know as formal education. I have recommended it to friends and family and do the same to you.
A 32 yr old Black man in London, UK
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