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The H3O/Art of Life Blog

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Know Thy History: Know Thyself, Part One

Updated: Feb 6, 2021

By Wayne Sebamurti Gentry

Presented by Omni-University

Ancestor Dr. Carter G. Woodson

Perhaps the best way to fully understand anything that exists- particularly this appreciation of "Black History Month" - is to discover its purpose and reason for coming into existence. Ancestor Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the "Father" of the celebration which came to be known as "Black History Month", was the second African American to earn a PhD from Harvard University(1912). The first was William Edward Burghardt DuBois (1895). Dr. Woodson was not only an historian, he was a world- renowned educator. While working on his PhD in History, Dr. Woodson conducted a thorough study of the educational systems in America and other nations. He became very fluent in numerous languages and even taught other ethnic groups in foreign nations. However, what he discovered to be a common reality for all people of African descent was that we were being portrayed as a people who had contributed nothing to the civilized world. Hence, we were regarded as the "white man's burden"[1]. Moreover, we were being prohibited from connecting with our own native humanity because we were denied access not only to the knowledge of our own history, culture, and language, but also to the practice of our own ancient African customs. Thus, it became readily apparent to Woodson that the American institutions, particularly those devoted to "negro education", were specifically designed to produce individuals who would remain ignorant of themselves and their rightful place in the world. In fact, unlike most of his peers, he was well aware of what took place, in 1890 and 1891, when leading White educators and White ministers held two conferences called, “The Lake Mohonk Conference on the Negro Question” the purpose of which was to determine the future course of "black" education. There were no Black people present at these conferences where the destiny of African Americans was being determined and sealed by a system of inferior "education".[2] The curricula, in use in the educational system in America today, is a product of these very Conferences!

These curricula are devoid of self-knowledge and, therefore, are counter-productive with regard to economic, political, and community growth. The very withholding of a people's self-knowledge disempowers them and, thus, consigns them to lifelong servitude. In other words to do for others rather than to "do for self"/themselves.[3] Woodson coined the term “mis-education” to signify this deliberate process of keeping Africans in America forever in subordination to those who conspired to substitute this form of mental enslavement for "education" He was so disturbed by his findings that he wrote “The Mis-education of the Negro” (1933), to alert Black people of the extent to which we are being inhibited in our growth as a people. We are being victimized by a process of "mis-education" that is designed to work against our best interests by keeping us oblivious to our Ancestral, i.e., African heritage. In his ingenious book, Dr. Carter G. Woodson made a case for the "Mental Liberation" of our people from a European- Centered "education" which is designed primarily to promulgate Black inferiority while promoting the notion of White superiority. The deliberate deprivation of access to our African History and Culture, through this system of "mis- education", is still impeding our growth and development mentally, emotionally, spiritually and politically. It was to address the harm that had been- and was still being-done to us by the denial of our cultural and historical contributions to humanity as well as to redress the intentional mis-education of African Americans that Dr. Carter G. Woodson dedicated his life. He took upon himself the task of uncovering, once and for all time, the means by which our bondage has been and continues to be perpetuated .

To be continued in Part Two...

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You are invited to view "Know Thy History: Know Thyself", an episode of the H3O Art of Life Show, Featuring: Professor/Lecturer/Artist/Archaeologist Dr. Anthony T. Browder.


[1] "White Man's Burden": The theory or allegation that it was the duty of the white colonizers to care for the non-white and indigenous subjects in their colonial possessions. (See "The White Man's Burden" by Rudyard Kipling and other sources )

[2] The Mohonk Conference, i.e., "The Second Conference on the Negro Question" was held June 3-5, 1891

[3] The "Do for Self" philosophy was espoused and practiced by The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, The Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey and many other of our revered Ancestors.

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