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The Mis-Education of the Negro

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The Mis-Education of the Negro is one of the most important books on education ever written. Carter G. Woodson shows us the weakness of Euro-centric based curriculums that fail to include African American history and culture. This system mis-educates the African American student, failing to prepare them for success and to give them an adequate sense of who they are within the system that they must live. Woodson provides many strong solutions to the problems he identifies. A must-read for anyone working in the education field.

215 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1933

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About the author

Carter G. Woodson

55 books226 followers
Convinced that the role of his own people in American history and in the history of other cultures was being ignored or misrepresented among scholars, Woodson realized the need for research into the neglected past of African Americans. Along with William D. Hartgrove, George Cleveland Hall, Alexander L. Jackson, and James E. Stamps, he founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History on September 9, 1915, in Chicago. That was the year Woodson published The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861. His other books followed: A Century of Negro Migration (1918) and The History of the Negro Church (1927). His work The Negro in Our History has been reprinted in numerous editions and was revised by Charles H. Wesley after Woodson's death in 1950.

In January 1916, Woodson began publication of the scholarly Journal of Negro History. It has never missed an issue, despite the Great Depression, loss of support from foundations, and two World Wars. In 2002, it was renamed the Journal of African American History and continues to be published by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).

Woodson stayed at the Wabash Avenue YMCA during visits to Chicago. His experiences at the Y and in the surrounding Bronzeville neighborhood inspired him to create the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915. The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History), which ran conferences, published The Journal of Negro History, and "particularly targeted those responsible for the education of black children". Another inspiration was John Wesley Cromwell's 1914 book, The Negro in American History: Men and Women Eminent in the Evolution of the American of African Descent.

Carter Godwin Woodson was an American historian, author, journalist and the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. He was one of the first scholars to study African-American history. A founder of The Journal of Negro History in 1916, Woodson has been cited as the "father of black history". In February 1926 he launched the celebration of "Negro History Week", the precursor of Black History Month.

Woodson believed that education and increasing social and professional contacts among blacks and whites could reduce racism and he promoted the organized study of African-American history partly for that purpose. He would later promote the first Negro History Week in Washington, D.C., in 1926, forerunner of Black History Month. The Bronzeville neighborhood declined during the late 1960s and 1970s like many other inner-city neighborhoods across the country, and the Wabash Avenue YMCA was forced to close during the 1970s, until being restored in 1992 by The Renaissance Collaborative.

He served as Academic Dean of the West Virginia Collegiate Institute, now West Virginia State University, from 1920 to 1922.

He studied many aspects of African-American history. For instance, in 1924, he published the first survey of free black slaveowners in the United States in 1830.

The time that schools have set aside each year to focus on African-American history is Woodson's most visible legacy. His determination to further the recognition of the Negro in American and world history, however, inspired countless other scholars. Woodson remained focused on his work throughout his life. Many see him as a man of vision and understanding. Although Woodson was among the ranks of the educated few, he did not feel particularly sentimental about elite educational institutions.[citation needed] The Association and journal that he started are still operating, and both have earned intellectual respect.

Woodson's other far-reaching activities included the founding in 1920 of the Associated Publishers, the oldest African-American publishing company in the United States. This enabled publication of books concerning blacks that

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 463 reviews
Profile Image for Joi Reece.
36 reviews24 followers
June 11, 2012
As I contemplate the state of today’s black adolescents, rereading this piece of literature provided a new perspective on the present condition of African-Americans. This book is more than a piece of literary history; it is the lens with which we should use to reevaluate our education, our family and our commitment to building a helping system.

What I loved most about this book is how it illustrates the power of education and knowledge. It explains how an improper education can make people unfit to solve their own problems and how a proper education can lead to freedom. I whole-heartedly believe that the neglect and continued falsification of African American History taught in the school system as well as the blatent distortion of the facts concerning us in most history books, has gravely deprived black children of their racial of a heritage, and relegated them to state that I see today- a perpetuated feeling of nothingness. What I see before me is the product of the aftermath: a completed cycle of this misguided conditioning- ignorance begetting more ignorance.

As stated by Woodsen “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.”

A quote that I try to live by. Education is power and the key!!
Profile Image for Chris brown.
120 reviews35 followers
March 18, 2016
It is amazing that after almost 75 years this book remains at the forefront of forward thinking. More than just a book, it is a manual; blue print rather for the uplifting and enlightening of a people without the common stowaway of blaming “the-man” as the father, author, creator, and personified of every woe upon the African American people. More amazing yet is that after 75 years the content and thermos of the book remain sound and accurate. The years may have passed but the spirit in which this book was written; the solutions that it gives; and the unequivocal wisdom that lies with in has not. This should most definitely be required reading in every high school English class across America.
Profile Image for leynes.
1,079 reviews2,931 followers
June 9, 2020
I read The Mis-Education of the Negro (1933) upon the recommendation of Yamini. Thank you so much, girl, for never letting me down.

Carter Woodson produced a constructive critique of the educational system of his time, with special reference to its blighting effects on black people. The most crucial element in his concept of miseducation hinged on the system's failure to present authentic African(-American) history in schools since most books gave little or no space to the black man's presence in America.
Why should the Negro wait for some one from without to urge him to self-assertion when he sees himself robbed by his employer, defrauded by his merchant, and hushed up by goverment agents of injustice? Why wait for a spur to action when he finds his manhood insulted, his woman outraged, and his fellowmen lynched for amusement?
Woodson believed that this form of miseducation, the willful withdrawal of facts and the distortion of history, led to a brain-washed acceptance of the inferior role assigned to black people by the oppressor.

His researches and writings were designed to provide educational sustenance, to fill the void which existed by reason of neglect of Black Studies. If one wants to comprehend today's race relations and debates, one must turn back to those earlier efforts and acknowledge the ideas and the work which 'seeded the ground' as it were, and made possible a climate of opinion within which concerted action for equality could prosper.

In 1930, the average expenditure per school-age child was $45.00 per white pupil and $14.95 per black pupil. Average southern investment in public school property per school-child amounted to $120.09 for whites and $29.62 for blacks. The average white teacher's salary was $1020, while the average black teacher earned $524.
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. No systematic effort toward change has been possible, for, the Negro's mind has been brought under the control of his oppressor. The problem of holding the Negro down, therefore, is easily solved. When you control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. He will find his 'proper place' and will stay in it.
Woodson's main criticism – the fact that black children are taught to despise their own race and admire the white race – is definitely a fair point and something that is worthy of discussion up to this day. Even though we have come a long way since the 1930s, it is still prevalent that whiteness is not only dominant but also idealised in the educational setting, whether it manifests itself in the fact that only books by white authors are on the curriculum or the fact that the history and achievements of minorities are glossed over in history lessons. Or the beauty standard (and default-whiteness) set by society, which is affirmed in all forms of media/advertisements/etc.

I highly appreciated how structured Woodson was in his work and that his focus was clearly on black people – their history, their current situation and how they may get out of this mess. I haven't encountered many authors of his period who were so unapologetic about autonomous, self-thinking black individuals who were in no need of the white man's aid to rise above themselves.
In the church, the Negro has had sufficient freedom to develop this institution in his own way, but he has failed to do so. His religion is merely a loan from the whites who have enslaved and segregated the Negroes; and the organization, though largely an independant Negro institution, is dominated by the thought of the oppressor of the race. In chameleon-like fashion the Negro has taken up almost everything religious which has come along instead of thinking for himself.
He talks at lenght about the corruption and toxicity of the Christian church and how Black churches were being used to indoctrinate blacks into believing in their own inferiority. He was also unapologetic about the fact that black students didn't learn anything useful or relevant at school/university, which resulted in their incapability of finding a suitable job after graduating.

His own definiton of what 'educated' really means in a system in which racism is institutionalized was so on point. 'Educated' blacks were not people who could think for themselves and act accordingly, no, 'educated' blacks were those who knew 'their place', recognized their 'inferiority' and knew 'they would never achieve anything'.

Fortunately, Woodson offers a solution to stop this form of 'education' from happening:
At this moment, then, the Negroes must begin to do the very thing which they have been taught they cannot do. They still have some money, and they have needs to supply. They must begin immediately to pool their earnings and organise industries to participate in supplying social and economic demands.
Can't believe I'm saying this but this approach actually reminded me of Jay Z's new song The Story of O.J. in which Jay preaches that blacks finally have to invest in valuable shit (e.g. by capitalizing on real estate opportunities) and give back to their communities.

In general, Woodson is brutually honest when it comes to his assertion of the black race. He doesn't fail to address their shortcomings. He talks at length about the fact that hundreds of black employees frankly say that they will not work under another black man. One is afraid that the other may prosper more than he does and be recognized accordingly.
For example, there may be a Negro grocer in the neighborhood, but the Negro chauffeur for a rich man down town and the washerwoman for an aristocratic family in 'quality row' will be more apt to buy their food and clothing at the larger establishment with which their employers have connections, although they may be insulted there.
I can't speak to the fact whether these sentiments are still prevalent today or not, but I think they're worth mentioning and thinking about. It's important to reflect one's behavior and one's internalized stances.

In conclusion, I really appreciate this study by Carter Woodson since it provides a comprehensive overview of the educational system of the 1930s and the resulting problems (some of which are yet to be battled). As mentioned above, I think it's crucial to understand the history of a problem to truly examine it in today's setting.
Profile Image for Trae Brookins.
209 reviews7 followers
July 17, 2013
A great historical document and extremely important to those in education who are concerned with racial injustice. A powerful read--unfortunately, so many of his observations regarding white hegemony and the systematic subjugation of African Americans remain true today. Woodson is clear is his critique and makes so many excellent points that I was highlighting a sentence almost every other page. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in human rights, social justice, racial equality and education.
Profile Image for Daya Washington.
2 reviews3 followers
May 23, 2013
This is the kind of book you will need to read and hear over and over again to grasp all that is being said. Every word is purposeful and every concept perfectly complex and all wrapped up in a challenging bow for the educated African American female (especially). The insight in this book dismantles all that I thought education would be at an HBCU. I wish this was required reading at my high school or even my community college before I transferred to one. An EPIC read for African American community organizers and those still stuck in the American system so much so that they lose grasp of just who they are and what they should be fighting for. This time, I am listening to the audiobook and I just stopped at chptr 6 so I can savor the part that mentions religion in depth. After this sober read, I'm already restless to find a less heavy read to balance out. I get so politically charged reading books like this-- makes me antsy!!
Profile Image for Cherisse.
37 reviews45 followers
September 5, 2008
Excellent book! Every African American needs to read this book in order to understand how we've been so brainwashed to hate ourselves.
Profile Image for Linda.
471 reviews45 followers
May 18, 2016
The Mis-Education of the Negro was originally published in 1933. In it, Woodson outlines what he sees as the repercussions of an ineffective Negro educational system. The book may have been shocking when it was written, but it represents mainstay thought about education, today. The book remains relevant, because even though most agree, as a community, we still have a way to go in putting many of his recommendations into practice. As a modern reader, I appreciated chapters XVII and the appendix the most. In chapter XVII, Woodson says that it doesn’t make sense for Blacks to simple give their vote to one political party.
Any people who will vote the same way for three generations without thereby obtaining results ought to be ignored and disfranchised. As a minority element, the Negro should not knock at the door of any particular political party.

In the appendix, Woodson examines the question of what the race should be called. I don’t think he ever answers the question, but I love the following quote:
It doesn’t matter so much what a thing is called as what a thing is.

Although the topics Woodson covers in chapters VII and the appendix aren’t new, I think he offers an opinion that isn’t often articulated as eloquently and is relevant to a modern discussion.

Profile Image for Sarah.
74 reviews17 followers
December 11, 2011
I know. I know. This is a classic that should be read by all black people everywhere. I have no real qualms about the content but there were just so few "ah-ha moments" that I was a little underwhelmed. To Woodson's credit, I'm sure that has more to do with the impact this book has had on black culture and education since it's publication. Many black people and institutions have taken Woodson's admonishments to heart and made positive changes. There are some areas pointed out in this book that still need serious work but even in those areas, I thought, "I already knew that." Even then, it's good to be reminded. I would recommend this book but don't expect for your world to be rocked by new revelations. Expect more of a reminder of how far we've come and how far we have to go.
Profile Image for Michael Strode.
41 reviews24 followers
February 2, 2012
"The Negro, whether in Africa or America, must be directed toward a serious examination of the fundamentals of education, religion, literature, and philosophy as they have been expounded to him. He must be sufficiently enlightened to determine for himself whether these forces have come into his life to bless him or bless his oppressor. After learning the facts in the case the Negro must develop the power of execution to deal with these matters as do people of vision." ~ Carter G. Woodson

Carter G. Woodson proposed this notion in the context of outlining a plan for advancing racial education through the development of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). In this sentiment, we can discern a challenge from Woodson to begin interpreting historical phenomena in a manner that establishes its measurable utility for influencing black people to claim full agency in altering their own condition. While making a comparative reading between this text and "The Souls of Black Folks", conversations I encountered with others led me to the conclusion that many have not afforded the most popular single thesis by Woodson the thorough examination required. While the language is often less florid than DuBois, the analysis offered here is no less comprehensive and lends itself to neither imitation nor repetition of the facts elucidated previously in "The Souls of Black Folks". Through his work as a historian, Woodson uses an incisive reading of the history of Negro education from the Reconstruction period forward to bolster the argument that it has been improperly administered by others to the detriment of black people. This injustice would only be resolved when we took ownership of creating the input and defining the outcome.

While the text opens by focusing its attention upon the process of miseducation, Woodson expands the diameter of the discussion markedly with each new chapter to display how this process takes root in each aspect of Negro life impacting the church, political ambitions, business sector, vision, and leadership. The argument he constructs finds him squarely balanced between Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey. While he endorses the fierce work ethic Washington sought to make the hallmark of black people, he rejects a servile acceptance of the permanent social underclass. His devotion to an educational system which nourishes black identity and intellect at every level builds upon the work of DuBois, but he admonishes educated Negroes to pair their higher learning with the grassroots service still being performed by those lesser educated. In practice, this pairing of ideas and implementation would form the framework for an independent community enterprise. Throughout the text he exudes the fierce nationalism exemplified in the Garveyite philosophy, but differs upon the subject of repatriation.

Amongst the most astute observations offered here comes in a discourse on Marxism where he states "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." The insight Woodson offers on this matter would later prove prescient when we saw our leftist alliances of the Renaissance crumble upon the realization that they held no serious desire to address racism within their ranks. This other facet of miseducation arising in the black community then being the dynamic adoption of new philosophies with no strategic or tactical analysis of merit or usefulness. In summation, Woodson offers us one of the many early attempts at developing a black social theory which draws upon the most valuable assets our community while exhorting us to take serious measures in addressing its liabilities.

His legacy of Negro History Week which later evolves into Black History Month is not born of a desire to give either ourselves or America a concession that equality has been achieved nor are we to be cavalier in our observance of this milestone. Negro History Week was to be a first stage towards the objective of building black institutions that could both educate children in their history being overlooked and afford them opportunities and avenues to expand upon that legacy. Cases in Arizona and Tennessee have given us a clear lens into the peculiar quality of American forgetfulness which occurs when a synthesized and complete historical record is not the way an educated mind is measured. As this forgetfulness becomes more pervasive, we must return to the work of Carter G. Woodson, Lorenzo Johnston Greene and the pioneers of varying strains of Black Studies whom arose post-Civil Rights for a template that will guide us back to the goal of establishing independent systems of education where the curriculum is not dictated to us, but decided by our own best assessment of the needs of our communities.

Bobby Wright offered us possibly the most sage insight on our renewed ethnic education debate in stating "Education is a political dynamic and for a people who have no social theory, reading, writing and arithmetic should be much less important than what is written and read." "The Miseducation of the Negro" is an opening gambit in helping us to shift that political dynamic in another direction, but only if we read it again with a far more critical eye than we have applied in the past for miseducation has implications which extend far beyond the classroom.
Want to read
June 13, 2009
I want to read this book so badly. I have read a couple of excerpt from the book, but I have not read the whole thing yet. When I get this book I will tell you all about it!
Profile Image for Eddie.
107 reviews36 followers
May 28, 2013
"The mere imparting of information is not education." (Ch. 1)

The Mis-Education of the Negro is a powerful glimpse into the state of the Negro in the Early 20th Century as analyzed by noted African-American historian and scholar, Carter G. Woodson. Throughout Mis-Education, Woodson addresses several key points:

How the Negro ended up in his predicament:
Woodson explains that the traducers of the race, those who oppress the Negro through propaganda and mis-education, "...by teaching [the Negro] that his black face is a curse and that his struggle to change his condition is hopeless is the worst sort of lynching. It kills one's aspirations and dooms him to vagabondage and crime." Ch. 1 -The Seat of the Trouble)

"....the schools for the classical education for Negroes have not done any better... The Negro trained in the advanced phases of literature, philosophy, and politics has been unable to develop far in using his knowledge because of having to function in the lower spheres of the social order." (Ch. 2 - How We Missed the Mark).

The apathy of the highly educated Negro:
"...the highly educated Negro often grows sour..." (Ch. 1 -The Seat of the Trouble) with many siding with segregationists on the best solution for the Negro race.

Why Negroes will not patronize black owned businesses & the need for the Negro in professions other than religious ministry are some of the topics Wooden expounds upon.
Profile Image for Sheehan.
602 reviews29 followers
July 1, 2011
Well I have had this book for almost a decade collecting dust on my shelf, just kept getting passed over for other seemingly more relevant texts that came across my desk.

Can't say it was "worth the wait", it is not bad, but not earth shattering either. Even for it's time, I imagine much of it must have seemed like a reiteration of WEB DuBois's Souls of Black Folks, in fact Woodson's whole chapter on the state of teachers was a pallid reconstruction of a much more poetic DuBois version.

Now to be fair, I'm sympathetic to many of the rhetorical arguments, regarding community self-sufficiency, a radical rethinking of the idea of equality and the agency to do for self, as opposed to awaiting your "due". Woodson's insistence at that time that the black community would suffer if reliant upon the good graces of whites and lose the same empowerment of other communities of immigrants that organize collectively, has clearly played out in the modern urban communities, where resources are immediately exported out of the community via trans-national corporations, and owners who do not live among the urban communities.

I enjoyed Woodson's call to service over leadership; stating, "The race needs workers, not leaders" suggesting better the steady investment of people in bettering their communities by doing work for themselves, instead of lining up to be recognized as leaders of the whole race by those in power doling out concessions and opportunities. There was a persistent bias against leadership throughout the book, generally asserting that many "leaders" in the communities were out for personal rather communal gains.

Lastly, the appendix was a bit nutty, a hodgepodge discussion of nomenclature for blacks, negroes, colored, etc., fashion advice, and prognostications on the future of color palette selections for the race...so that was sort of interesting ending!
Profile Image for Les.
358 reviews32 followers
March 7, 2014
It wasn't what I remembered. Reading it in my youth and reading it in my - well, non youth - were definitely different experiences. Still full of truth, but thankfully some of it has become dated or I disagreed with the premise of certain points based on my own life experience. Speaking of life experience, the conclusions the author makes based on his personal encounters are often valid but limited in their own way. And sadly, much of what he wrote became dated over time and then decades later, became true once again - which implies that it was and always will be. My romantic notions of this book are now dismantled, but wisdom and truth don't need to be romanticized. I can appreciate this work on a different level and be content with departing from Woodson's thinking/assumptions on certain points. This was published several decades ago, so that it still manages to hold up in so many ways (while falling in others for me, "educated negro" that I am) is a testament to his observations not just of the black mental and sociological condition, but of human nature, which gives the illusion of change over and over again. Even revolutions often lead to a change in leadership rather than a change in concept. After all, revolving is a circular motion in most spheres of math, physics and life. Glad I re-read it. How I use it as a teaching tool with my students will be more restricted than I thought, yet more targeted and thus more powerful.
Profile Image for Micah Smurthwaite.
65 reviews12 followers
February 4, 2011
The father of Black History Month, Woodson started Black History Week in 1926. A newly freed slave should receive education, but what is the utility of a liberal education ? Liber is latin for free; the education available to every free man. It is also the education to free your mind. Philosophy, science, history, and the humanities (which are called such because they are what differentiates us as human and the study of humanizes us).

However, how useful is a man's knowledge of Plato in an agricultural economy? While Woodson studied the classics at Harvard, his peer had a vocational education in wool and has multiplied earning power.

Woodson grapples with this debate and encourages his fellow Black aristocrats and intellectuals to do all they can to uplift his race.

"The problem of holding the Negro down, therefore, is easily solved. When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his “proper place” and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary"
Profile Image for Michael.
1,209 reviews111 followers
September 15, 2018
I accidentally stumbled on this treasure when I finished a similar book. One of my favorite albums is the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, it is an iconic album that I constantly listen too, ironically this book was the inspiration of this album. Now to the book that I enjoyed tremendously, it should be required reading for all high school students, so much of African History has been lost. I will start by quoting a book from the book that summarized the book the best.

"If the “educated Negro” could go off and be white he might be happy, but only a mulatto now and then can do this. The large majority of this class, then, must go through life denouncing white people because they are trying to run away from the blacks and decrying the blacks because they are not white."

Regardless of how you feel about this quote, this is the sad reality that many Blacks face. As a young Black male, I encounter racism either from the outside looking in or personally. America has a problem with race and until we acknowledge it, we are never going to make progress. This book takes about the inequality of America and how we are still faced with the dilemma on whether to educate or remain ignorant. It Is a lot like the quote that says: "If you want to hide someone from a black man, just put it in a book." This was very hard book to read, but it was very provocative and engrossing, I def will recommend it.
Profile Image for A'Tru Dreamx.
11 reviews13 followers
July 3, 2012
This was an excellent analysis of the state of black American culture. It was inspiring, as well as a saddening truth. Despite being written in 1930 it reflects current trends. I was disturb to find that as a race African Americans have not made significant gains since the time of Mr. Woodson. Hopefully, his warnings, suggestions, and ideas will be revisited by the new generation to make a positive change.
Profile Image for Shannette Slaughter.
8 reviews1 follower
February 17, 2010
This is a must read for all American Born Africans. It will remind you that the education that you've received, whether from Harvard or the streets, it is inadequate for true liberation. We must go beyond what has been provided and begin to be the providers. The truth shall set you free
Profile Image for Mykie.
35 reviews
February 25, 2017
This review is long overdue. I have been reading this book on a regular basis for years.
I hold great appreciation for the work Mr. Woodson put into this text. I will say that one must truly understand the following aspects before they can fully engage with the text and feel the impact of the analysis that lies within the text:

1) Mr. Woodson is analyzing the MIS-education of “the negro” and not UN-education. It is urgent that one understands this before they dive in
2) Mr. Woodson was a pivotal influence for the African American community. It is because of Mr. Woodson that we have Black History Month and it is also because of Mr. Woodson that Black History is now taught in schools
3) Mr. Woodson was the son of two former slaves
4) Mr. Woodson was deeply passionate about education. He even went on to become a Dean at Howard University

This book is a very quick read (a little over 100 pages), but I suggest taking your time and reading one concept/chapter at a time to digest it all. It’s heavy. It’s deep. It’s relevant. Even today, in 2014, much of what was written still holds true.

Some of my favorite components of this book are that it 1.) addresses the role of education in the development of our minds, lives and experiences 2.) addresses how the context of education provided to black people has failed these efforts ( I will provide specifics below in this review) 3.) addresses the importance of those who do receive adequate education bringing those skills back to the black community 4.) addresses the reality that the only contribution black people have made to the economy is labor because of MIS-education (this still holds true in most cases)

I took two major points from this book that really brought the claim of MIS-education home:

1) Mr. Woodson describes “real” education as a vehicle that “inspires people to live more abundantly, to learn to begin with life as they find it and make it better.” I think we all can agree, even today, that education does not provide such for black people. We still have not taken our “education” to make differences in our communities that are, more often than not, filled with undesirable conditions.
2) Mr. Woodson discusses the idea of elevating people through the education process. He indicates that you aren’t elevating people unless you are helping them help themselves. Given that one of the roles of education is to elevate opportunities, the mind and the way one experiences the world, I think we all can agree here, too. We can agree that if elevating truly means helping people help themselves, education continues to fail us.

I admire the fact that Mr. Woodson was so passionate about the future and development of the black community that he dedicated pretty much his whole life to analyzing it and putting his blood sweat and tears into it.

My favorite book of all time is Black Power by Stokely Carmichael. I was delighted to see that this book has the same messages and the same focus. Very similar texts with the same intentions. That shows evidence that Mr. Woodson had a great influence on leaders that came after him.

This book is a must-read!
Profile Image for Shira.
Author 3 books164 followers
March 7, 2018
This book is one that is worth owning, despite the 1933 publication date. Much and sadly like Dr. King's 1967 book Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, this book is also still very relevant, and sadly, very on point with our current reality.

The author points out the need for critical thinking, self-education combined with a willingness to dig further than the surface or secondary sources, and to put community, and humanity, above personal interests. These needs remain.


March 7th, 12018 HE

Profile Image for Tama.
404 reviews
July 20, 2008
I felt a great deal of conflict coming from Woodson as I read this book. He seems to be a great observer of the Negro people. He has provided depth and perspective in his writing. Yet it seemed that for every concept he approached, he consistently countered his own initial point of view. As an example, I was intrigued by his discussion of an educated and uneducated minister. The educated minister understands (and can read) the established teachings, but the uneducated minister understands the people. I feel as though the constant comparison was written of Group A (uneducated) and Group B (educated). I did not get a sense of what happened as the very person he wrote about in Group A transitioned to become a member of Group B. The member of Group B seemed to have succumbed to the values or oppression of the White population, but does that mean he has entirely rejected the values from which he arose?
Profile Image for Tank.
322 reviews18 followers
May 13, 2016
A bit dated, but still relevant. Most of the issues still plaguing our community today. Not at all happy with some of the boot strap and respectability solutions offered up by the author, but considering the day and age in which it was written, it's excusable. Still a must read for anyone serious about eliminating the conditioning, indoctrination, and pathology plaguing the African diaspora.
3 reviews2 followers
June 26, 2008
This book is relevant, even into today's time. Although it was written in the early 1900s, the analysis can be applied to today's situations. I read this book at the beginning of each new school year.
Profile Image for Daniel S.
89 reviews
August 27, 2016
"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. It kills ones aspirations and dooms them to vagabondage and crime. It is strange, then, that the friends of truth and the promoters of freedom have not risen up against the present propaganda in the schools and crushed it. This crusade is much more important than the anti-lynching movement, because there would be no lynching if it did not start in the schoolroom. Why not exploit, can slave, or exterminate a class that everybody is talked to regard as inferior?" [pg. 2]

"When a Negro has finished his education in our schools, then, he has been equipped to begin the life of an Americanized or Europeanized white man, but before he steps from the threshold of his alma mater he is told by his teachers that he must go back to his own people from home he has been a estranged by a vision of ideals which in his disillusionment he will realize that he cannot attain." [pg. 4]

"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. It compels the Negro to become a good Negro for the performance of which his education is ill-suited... History does not furnish a case of the elevation of a people by ignoring the thought and aspiration of the people thus served." [pg. 15]

"The education of any people should begin with the people themselves, but Negroes thus trained have been dreaming about the ancients of Europe and about those who have tried to imitate them." [pg. 21]

"If the "highly educated" Negro would forget most of the untried theories taught him in school, if he could see through the propaganda which has been instilled into his mind under the pretext of education, if he would fall in love with his own people and begin to sacrifice for their uplift-if the "highly educated" Negro would do these things, he could solve some of the problems now confronting the race." [pg. 29]

"The whites said that they could not do it; and, of course, if the whites said so, it was true, so far as Negroes were concerned. In those fields, however, actual demonstrations to the contrary have convinced a sufficient number of both Negroes and whites that such an attitude toward these classes is false, but there are many Negroes who still follow those early teachings, especially the "highly educated" who in school have been given the "scientific" reasons for it. It is a most remarkable process that while in one department of a university a Negro may be studying for a profession, in another department of the same university he is being shown how the Negro professional man cannot succeed." [pg. 51]

"...as they recover from their education and learn to deal with the Negro as he is and where he is." [pg. 53]

"It was well understood that if by the teaching of history the white man could be further assured of his superiority and the Negro could be made to feel that he had always been a failure and that the subjection of his will to some other race is necessary the freedman, then, would still be a slave. If you can control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern your self about what he will do. If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, he will seek it for himself. 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." [pg. 55]

"An influential Negro in the South, then, is one who has nothing to do or say about politics and advises others to follow the same course." [pg. 58]

"Although an opiate furnishes temporary relief, it does not remove the cause of the pain. In this case we have yielded on principle to satisfy the mob, but have not yet found an alternate solution of the problem at hand. 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. We do not show the Negro how to overcome segregation, but we teach him how to except it as a final and just." [pg. 65]

"An irate resident in an exclusive district protests against an invasion by Negroes because he has learned that these poverty-stricken people are carriers of disease and agents of crime; the Negroes, believing that such is the truth, remain content in the ghetto." [pg. 65]

"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." [pg. 70]

"It is an injustice to the Negro, however, to mis-educate him and suffer his manners to be corrupted from infancy until old age and then blame him for making the mistakes which such a guidance necessitates." [pg. 81]

"It seems that the white educators of this day are unwilling to do this, and for that reason they can never contribute to the actual development of the Negro from within. You cannot serve people by giving them orders as to what to do. The real servant of the people must live among them, think with them, feel for them, and die for them." [pg. 84]

"These misguided teachers ignore the fact that the race question is being brought before black and white children daily in their homes, in the streets, through the press and on the rostrum. How, then, can the school ignore the duty of teaching the truth while these other agencies are playing up falsehood? ... If the Negro is to be elevated he must be educated in the sense of being developed from what he is, and the public must be so enlightened as to think of the Negro as a man. Furthermore, no one can be thoroughly educated until he learns as much about the Negro as he knows about other people." [pg. 88]

"They have been taught facts of history, but have never learned to think. Their conception is that you go to school to find out what other people have done, and then you go out in life to imitate them." [pg. 89]

"In the first place, we must bear in mind that the Negro has never been educated. He has merely been informed about other things which he has not been permitted to do. The Negroes have been shoved out of the regular schools through the rear door into the obscurity of the backyard and told to imitate others whom they see you from afar, or they have been permitted in some places to come into the public schools to see how others educate themselves." [pg. 93]

"To educate the Negro we must find out exactly what his background is, what he is today, what his possibilities are, and how to begin with him as he is and make him a better individual of the kind that he is. Instead of cramming the Negro's mind with what others have shown that they can do, we should develop his latent powers that he may perform in society a part of which others are not capable." [pg. 97]

"We say, hold onto the real facts of history as they are, but complete such knowledge by studying also the history of races and nations which have been purposely ignored." [pg. 99]

"The education of the masses has not enabled them to advance very far in making a living and has not developed in the Negro the power to change this condition." [pg. 102]

"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 and they had in the beginning." [pg. 119]
Profile Image for JRT.
162 reviews43 followers
August 12, 2022
“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.” From this quote, the great Carter G. Woodson articulates the fundamental reason why Black Americans are “miseducated”…it serves the interests of the ruling class. For the rest of this classic book, Woodson sets out to depict how Black miseducation works, and what its consequences are. From purposefully imprinting a sense of Black inferiority / white superiority, to estranging Black “elites” from the Black masses, the American educational system is intentionally designed to stifle the collective development of Black people.

Woodson critiques not only the white supremacist educational system, but those members of the Black “talented tenth” who have earned degrees only for the purpose of ultimately serving the interests of white capital. He also critiques the Black Church for failing to organize its hordes of members for radical and practical political aims. Woodson states, “If you can control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his action.” In other words, deliberate educational neglect and intentional miseducation will inevitably keep Black Americans in a state of perpetual underdevelopment, ultimately entrenching their colonial status. Woodson’s proposed solution involves tailoring Black education in all sectors of society toward the needs of the Black masses. Unfortunately, he provides little in the way of how to carry out such an endeavor, especially where Black people are not a majority populace. Sadly, we are largely in the same position today as we were when Woodson wrote this classic work.
Profile Image for Valarie.
505 reviews12 followers
October 21, 2011
I am rating this book based on its relevance today, which is amazing considering it was written in 1933. One would expect that very little of Woodson's writing on race relations would still be useful 80 years later, but it is amazingly inspiring and thought-provoking to read. His clear explanations of the failure of our educational system made me want to go out and run for the Board of Education, and write a new history textbook. I took away a star because about 20% of what he describes isn't at all relevant anymore, and because he often digresses from the main topic of education, but overall it is one of the most worthwhile weekends I have spent reading - and that's saying a lot!
Profile Image for DeeTimes' Nook.
2,230 reviews
February 12, 2020
"The Mis-Education of the Negro" by Carter G. Woodson is still a must read on the plight of the mis-education of African- Africans.

"When you control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his 'proper place' and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary." -CGW

If we don't know our history, we are bound to repeat it every time...

Profile Image for Averill.
67 reviews
June 22, 2014
The book in itself is a relic you can tell by the name, but as I lay in my bed last night I realized the negro (African American) is frozen in a time warp. Here it is 2014, and a book written in 1933 is as relevant now as it's was back then. lol. A lot of the problems addressed in this book I myself have chewed on a few times. 2014 and Blacks, Negros, african Ameri... What ever we call ourselves still don't buy from one another. Sad. Good book all the same.
Profile Image for Chalida.
1,427 reviews11 followers
September 26, 2009
While this book was not a page-turner for me and took a lot of concentration and re-reading, I feel it is a must-read for all educators. There are so many gems of wisdom that I know I will keep in mind for the rest of my career. I will have to re-read and reflect on my practice with Woodson's philosophies always. Written in the 1930's, this book is so relevant today.
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