2016 Regions Riding Forward® Winning Essay by Jela L.

Our history has been graced with an abundance of African American game changers. People who have made large waves that continue to impact us all presently. I have always enjoyed learning about these African American icons, and it excites me to witness how all they have done has shaped my life. For this reason, I chose the “Father of Black History” as my inspiration. Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a historian, author, journalist, and the founder of the Study of African American Life and History, dedicated his career to educating the public on African American history. He even developed ""Negro History Week"", which would be a precursor to Black History month. Without him, it is possible that many of the wonderful people my fellow applicants have chosen to write about would not be as well known.

"Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history."" This quote from Woodson is one that I strongly believe in. Great action, typically, comes from inspiration and passion. It is important that young people know about the struggles and triumphs of African American icons, so that it can motivate us to make a difference as well. Over the course of his life, Woodson certainly had a thorough and fulfilling education; earning a literature degree from Berea College, then continuing his studies at Sorbonne University of Paris, and finally receiving a Ph.D in history from Harvard University. 

What truly captivates me about Carter G. Woodson is not just his determination and intelligence, but also the way he went about establishing change. He wrote numerous scholarly books and magazine articles that spotlight the contributions of African Americans in the United States of America. Among these works, I found fascination in his book The Mis-education of the Negro. I, being an avid reader and history buff, always appreciate good literature, and this particular piece sparked a sort of enlightenment in me. The dissertation investigated how efficient the education structure for African Americans was. According to Woodson's beliefs, the American school system (of 1933) was not truly teaching African American students, but ""culturally indoctrinating"" them. Teaching them to believe that they were dependent and inferior. His thesis reinforces his goal of promoting black history, because we see the successes of African Americans who exemplify the complete opposite of dependence and inferiority. 

I have always held the history of my people and their achievements in high-esteem, but after reading Dr. Carter G. Woodson's thought-provoking words, I have grown to value them so much more.  I plan to major in communications and journalism, and would like to use my words to institute change the same way Woodson has. He encourages us to embrace black history, and just as important, he has taught me that there are instances where words can be just as loud as actions.


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