These Carter G. Woodson quotes will remind you how important it is to know black history.
Carter G. Woodson was an American historian, journalist, author, and founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. He believed strongly that African-Americans should know their history in order to participate intelligently in current affairs.
Woodson was one of the first scholars to study African-American history and spent the majority of his life educating people on the subject. In the 1920s he founded “Negro History Week” which would eventually evolve into Black History Month. Woodson is known as the “father of black history.”
Carter G. Woodson quotes on why it is important to know your history
1. “We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in history.” — Carter G. Woodson
2. “What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world, void of national bias, race, hate, and religious prejudice.” — Carter G. Woodson
3. “We have a wonderful history behind us. … If you are unable to demonstrate to the world that you have this record, the world will say to you, ‘You are not worthy to enjoy the blessings of democracy or anything else’.” — Carter G. Woodson
4. “Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.” — Carter G. Woodson
5. “History shows that it does not matter who is in power or what revolutionary forces take over the government, 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 had in the beginning.” — Carter G. Woodson
6. “If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.” — Carter G. Woodson
7. “What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.” — Carter G. Woodson
8. “The bondage of the Negro brought captive from Africa is one of the greatest dramas in history, and the writer who merely sees in that ordeal something to approve or condemn fails to understand the evolution of the human race.” — Carter G. Woodson
Carter G. Woodson quotes on oppression
9. “If you teach the Negro that he has accomplished as much good as any other race he will aspire to equality and justice without regard to race. Such an effort would upset the program of the oppressor in Africa and America. Play up before the Negro, then, his crimes and shortcomings. Let him learn to admire the Hebrew, the Greek, the Latin, and the Teuton. Lead the Negro to detest the man of African blood–to hate himself.” — Carter G. Woodson
10. “The large majority of the Negroes who have put on the finishing touches of our best colleges are all but worthless in the development of their people.” — Carter G. Woodson
11. “The thought of the inferiority of the Negro is drilled into him in almost every class he enters and in almost every book he studies.” — Carter G. Woodson
12. “The oppressor has always indoctrinated the weak with his interpretation of the crimes of the strong.” — Carter G. Woodson
13. “As another has well said, to handicap a student by teaching him that his black face is a curse and that his struggle to change his condition is hopeless is the worst sort of lynching.” — Carter G. Woodson
14. “When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions.” — Carter G. Woodson
15. “Even schools for Negroes, then, are places where they must be convinced of their inferiority.” — Carter G. Woodson
16. “Negroes who have been so long inconvenienced and denied opportunities for development are naturally afraid of anything that sounds like discrimination.” — Carter G. Woodson
17. “The so-called modern education, with all its defects, however, does others so much more good than it does the Negro, because it has been worked out in conformity to the needs of those who have enslaved and oppressed weaker peoples.” — Carter G. Woodson
18. “In schools of theology Negroes are taught the interpretation of the Bible worked out by those who have justified segregation and winked at the economic debasement of the Negro at times almost to the point of starvation.” — Carter G. Woodson
19. “The same educational process which inspires and stimulates the oppressor with the thought that he is everything and has accomplished everything worthwhile depresses and crushes at the same time the spark of genius in the Negro by making him feel that his race does not amount to much and never will measure up to the standards of other peoples.” — Carter G. Woodson
20. “The present system under the control of the whites trains the Negro to be white and at the same time convinces him of the impropriety or the impossibility of his becoming white.” — Carter G. Woodson
21. “Negro banks, as a rule, have failed because the people, taught that their own pioneers in business cannot function in this sphere, withdrew their deposits.” — Carter G. Woodson
22. “Why not exploit, enslave, or exterminate a class that everybody is taught to regard as inferior?” — Carter G. Woodson
Carter G. Woodson quotes about the fight for equality
23. “It may be well to repeat here the saying that old men talk of what they have done, young men of what they are doing, and fools of what they expect to do. The Negro race has a rather large share of the last-mentioned class.” — Carter G. Woodson
24. “There should be no indulgence in undue eulogy of the Negro.” — Carter G. Woodson
25. “The case of the Negro is well taken care of when it is shown how he has far influenced the development of civilization.” — Carter G. Woodson
26. “If the Negro in the ghetto must eternally be fed by the hand that pushes him into the ghetto, he will never become strong enough to get out of the ghetto.” — Carter G. Woodson
27. “I am not afraid of being sued by white businessmen. In fact, I should welcome such a lawsuit. It would do the cause much good. Let us banish fear. We have been in this mental state for three centuries.” — Carter G. Woodson
28. “The race needs workers, not leaders.” — Carter G. Woodson
29. “In the long run, there is not much discrimination against superior talent.” — Carter G. Woodson
30. “If the white man wants to hold on to it, let him do so; but the Negro, so far as he is able, should develop and carry out a program of his own.” — Carter G. Woodson
31. “At this moment, then, the Negroes must begin to do the very thing which they have been taught that they cannot do.” — Carter G. Woodson
32. “One can cite cases of Negroes who opposed emancipation and denounced the abolitionists.” — Carter G. Woodson
33. “The Negros will have no outlet but to go down a blind alley if the sort of education which they are now receiving is to enable them to find the way out of their present difficulties.” — Carter G. Woodson
34. “The Negroes are facing the alternative of rising in the sphere of production to supply their proportion of the manufacturers and merchants or of going down to the graves of paupers.” — Carter G. Woodson
Carter G. Woodson quotes about the importance of proper education
35. “In our so-called democracy we are accustomed to give the majority what they want rather than educate them to understand what is best for them.” — Carter G. Woodson
36. “The mere imparting of information is not education.” — Carter G. Woodson
37. “Philosophers have long conceded, however, that every man has two educators: ‘that which is given to him, and the other that which he gives himself. Of the two kinds, the latter is by far the more desirable.” — Carter G. Woodson
38. “What we are merely taught seldom nourishes the mind like that which we teach ourselves.” — Carter G. Woodson
39. “For me, education means to inspire people to live more abundantly, to learn to begin with life as they find it and make it better.” — Carter G. Woodson
If you’re enjoying these quotes, make sure to read our collection of education quotes about learning and success.
40. “The mere imparting of information is not education. Above all things, the effort must result in making a man think and do for himself.” — Carter G. Woodson
41. “Truth must be dug up from the past and presented to the circle of scholastics in scientific form and then through stories and dramatizations that will permeate our educational system.” — Carter G. Woodson
42. “Our most widely known scholars have been trained in universities outside of the South.” — Carter G. Woodson
43. “Truth comes to us from the past, then, like gold washed down from the mountains.” — Carter G. Woodson
More Carter G. Woodson quotes
44. “In fact, the confidence of the people is worth more than money.” — Carter G. Woodson
45. “Indeed all that is most worthy in man he must work out and conquer for himself. It is that which constitutes our real and best nourishment.”— Carter G. Woodson
46. “I am ready to act if I can find brave men to help me.” — Carter G. Woodson
47. “The real servant of the people must live among them, think with them, feel for them, and die for them.” — Carter G. Woodson
48. “No man knows what he can do until he tries.” — Carter G. Woodson
49. “I am a radical.” — Carter G. Woodson
50. “You must give your own story to the world.” — Carter G. Woodson
How much do you know about black history?
Carter G. Woodson was born in Virginia to parents who were former slaves. He didn’t have much opportunity for education as a child because his parents needed his help on their farm and couldn’t spare him to go to school.
Despite this, Woodson was determined to educate himself. He was self-taught in most school subjects and, at the age of 20, in 1895, he enrolled at Douglas High School and received his diploma within two years.
Education would become Woodson’s main focus in life. He would go on to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University and would later become the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Howard University.
In his studies, Woodson found that African American history was often misrepresented, or sometimes, non-existent in the history books. Woodson believed that knowing black history was important for the progression of America and in the fight for equality, and so he spent the majority of his life studying and teaching black history.
Did you learn anything from these Carter G. Woodson quotes and sayings? Which quote was your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.
February 4, 2021 7:00 AM EST