Huntington City Mayor proclaims February 5 Dr. Carter G. Woodson Day


Rebecca Turnbull

Burnis Morris, Dr. Carter G. Woodson Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications at Marshall University, helps recognize Feb. 5 as Dr. Carter G. Woodson day.

By proclamation from the city of Huntington, February 5, 2016 was named Dr. Carter G. Woodson Day.

Many students and community members have come to recognize February as Black History Month but few understand Dr. Woodson’s influence on Black History as a genre itself. As Marshall School of Journalism professor Burnis Morris said, “He (Woodson) did not believe in Black history but in all history.”

Before Woodson’s initiative in 1926 for the second week of February to be named “Negro History Week,” Woodson first had to appreciate education himself. Woodson moved to Huntington after his father was given a job with C&O Railroad. Despite his hope of an education from Douglass High School in Huntington, Woodson had to spend the majority of his time in Fayette County as a coal miner. When Woodson was able to attend Douglass as a full-time high school student, he finished in just two years. Woodson later returned to become principal of Douglass High School. Pursuing higher education through travel and scholastic endeavors, Woodson received his Ph.D. in history from Harvard University in 1912—the first child of slavery to obtain this level of education from the university.

Members of both Houses of Congress from the state legislature were in attendance for the ceremony honoring Dr. Carter G. Woodson on Friday in Drinko Library. However prominent their own titles are, the members of the legislature all seemed to agree that Carter G. Woodson pioneered more than they could imagine during a time in history where adversity haunted his every step. Even though Woodson’s work and legacy progressed the movement for race equality, Marshall University president Jerome Gilbert said, “We’ve come a long way from those early years, and we can be thankful for that, but we are still haunted by the ghosts of segregation past.”

Del. Sean Hornbuckle of Cabell County reflected on Woodson’s character trait of perseverance when asked what quality of Woodson’s he tried to incorporate in his daily life. “Why wouldn’t I speak out against injustice?” Hornbuckle said as he explained the importance of courage in times of adversity and opposition. Hornbuckle said it is his hope that Woodson’s legacy can be celebrated all throughout the year.

Mayor Steve Williams said he was hopeful that the proclamation of Dr. Carter G. Woodson Day in Huntington not only preserved Woodson’s legacy but educated and informed the community members of how they too can succeed in the battle with adversity.

A Huntington young adult served his community. A Huntington scholar defeated odds. A Huntington activist got there from here. This mantra, “you can get there from here” was said over and over by Williams. Williams said that Woodson got there, as in being known as the most recognized historian of Black History and pioneer of his time, from Huntington roots. When asked what he hopes the students of Marshall University and the Huntington community learn from the proclamation of Dr. Carter G. Woodson Day, Williams responded, “Very simply—you can change the world and it can start here in Huntington, West Virginia.”

Williams further urged students and the audience in attendance that “there is nothing, nothing to prevent you from changing the world. We expect you to change the world.”

Dr. Carter G. Woodson had an idea. In the words of Woodson himself, “I am ready to act, if I can find brave men to help me.” In remembrance of Dr. Carter G. Woodson and in observance of his legacy, as Williams encouraged, the community of Huntington and the university can be those brave men and women.


Elayna Conard can be contacted at [email protected].