Sankofa’s Bookcase

I read the mis-education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson ( written in 1933) and at the conclusion of it, decided I want to be not just an educator, but a re-educator. Read on to find out why and please share your own thoughts.

The experiences and achievements, or lack thereof, of African American students have been studied and researched extensively, to little or no avail. Most modern discussions involving their plight totally disregard the failure of the education system to “present authentic Negro History in schools… and distortions of the facts concerning [it]. (Woodson 5) In The Miseducation of the Negro, Carter G. Woodson argues his own theory on the underlying issue African American students are facing.

Woodson begins by asserting that the Negro race is only studied as a problem. Thus, the notion of inferiority is rooted early in a child. This in turn can leave a child hopeless. Resultantly, many young African Americans have resorted to lives of crime. Having no real knowledge of the contributions their ancestors have made in America, they have no positive foundation, no self-assurance.
Even after obtaining an education in America, a black man is only equipped to live the life of an Americanized or Europeanized white man with little to no regard with the progression of his own people. This is the goal of the system.

Woodson focuses on the “educated negroes” and their assimilations. He believes the majority of them reach a point of haughtiness with no sympathy for the turmoil their people undergo daily. He blames the system also, for this callousness.Furthermore, Woodson contends that many educators believe that education is merely the imparting of information when indeed, “real education means to inspire people to live more abundantly, to learn to begin with life as they find it and make it better” (Woodson 28). However, because the education of Negro children are in the hands of the same power who once enslaved and segregated their ancestors, this has led to a loss of vision for black people. They have no real aspirations. Instead, they become subservient, accepting their inferior status.

Also, in the economic world, the miseducation has effected African Americans mostly, in that there is no real trust amongst them. They have been taught that black people cannot handle business affairs appropriately. Some, due to envy, are afraid of another African American advancing or prospering more than themselves and being recognized accordingly, so they refuse to offer support. There is also the refusal of African americans to work under someone of their own race because the notion has been taught and engraved in them that their whole race is good for nothing, thus one should not be in subjection to the either. This keeps the race as a whole on a lower level.

Another issue the African American race faces that Woodson explores is the desire of the majority to be leaders, rather than servants. He emphasizes a need for humility amongst the race, using the words, “whosoever is greatest among you, let him be your servant” (Woodson 69). He also promotes for higher strivings for the race in the political world saying they should become figures amongst it and not tools used by it. One must resolve to try to give the world something, rather than take all that he/she can from it. He reasons that those who do not learn to do for themselves rely on other for their welfare, and that contributes to the situation African Americans are in today. ​

Woodson believed that if you teach Negro children that he or she and their people have accomplished as much good as any other race, he or she will aspire to equality and justice without any regard to race. In order to gain confidence in himself and his race, he or she should approach his or her past scientifically and eventually be able to give his or her own story to the world. He emphasized the importance of education teaching a person to learn to think for himself. He believed this to be the only true way to elevate the African American race.

First he contends that the Negro man or woman should become angry with themselves. It will do him no good to point all blame to his oppressors. The oppressor’s very goal is to make the Negro man and woman forget that they were once a slave who was blatantly oppressed. Instead, they justify the past oppression they have inflicted upon African Americans.


This book proved to be an eye opening insight into the current situation in our schools today, although written some 80 years ago. It effectively showed that the lack of attention given to authentic African American history in America weakens the confidence built in students of color who grow up with no real knowledge of their contribution to history, or place in the present. In agreement with Woodson’s theory on reform, until African American culture and history is promoted in the school systems, and a real connection is made between their past and current state, African American students will continue to not push themselves as much as they should or hold themselves to a higher standard.

Most appreciative is Woodson’s call to actions. He tells of the need to thoroughly examine the fundamentals of education, religion, literature, and philosophy as they have been expounded to African Americans. Having done this, with a full understanding, the Negro man and woman must approach such information with vision and “exercise foresight rather than hindsight” (Woodson 95).

There needs to be a more holistic approach taken to education if there is to ever come about true reform. Woodson also effectively explains that African American children are experiencing an oppression that is both systemized and structured, and that will not undue itself. Yet, they are not taught or equipped to make a better lives for themselves, thus the miseducation of the Negro. Everyone should read this book, especially those directly involved in the education of Negro children.

Sankofa Byrd