Picturing Black History

Photographs and stories that changed the world

A collaboration of     and    

Transcript: Carter Godwin Woodson, an Interview with Damarius Johnson

Damarius Johnson

What I want to communicate to our readership is the importance of Carter G. Woodson, who was known as the father of black history. As for me, one of the towering figures that has allowed for the kinds of digital history projects, which would include Picturing Black History. So one of the images that I chose for this essay is an image of Ronald Reagan in 1984, February 1984, unveiling the postage stamps to honor the life and work of Carter G. Woodson. This image represents the kind of mainstream of African American History, but we also should consider that 1984 is an election year. Jesse Jackson is launching his first attempt at the presidency and the surrounding context of African American interests and optimism helps us to understand some of the reasons why Ronald Reagan would have taken this opportunity to unveil the stamp and to honor African American history. Because one of his potential challenges is Jesse Jackson, who had great influence and prominence among African Americans and a diverse community of Americans. The mainstream of African American History can be molded and shaped to serve multiple purposes in different audiences. What struck me about the second image that I chose, which pictures, really, a black community event, what we have as a staple activity during Black History Month that occurred this image in February 1980. What we see here is a black bookseller who was selling his books to a community of black patrons and pictured behind them is a placard that reads “black history and liberation”. And what this placard visualizes is that black history and liberation is the compelling interest that draws together folks across the country to engage in celebrating this holiday and that in Woodson’s life, we see his constant assertion that Black history is at the core of this ability to reimagine how American society can be. And also, African histories that span the globe are relevant to African Americans in the United States. All of these elements are important themes of Carter G. Woodson’s life and work represents, in a protest struggle which is still ongoing.