The Mis-Education of the Negro

By Carter Goodwin Woodson, Ph.D.

Reviewed by John Cowan


I do not expect my readers to rush out and buy this book. It was published in 1933. I would hope that for the most part the Negro is now well educated in the problems that Dr. Woodson raises and the solutions he recommends. But just to have a glimpse of the self-created obstacles black people needed to overcome to get to where they have gotten in the near century since the book was written is of value. And a moment of respect for the man who could outline them so well.

(I will use the word “Black” where he uses “Negro” in deference to present custom. I realize that “Negro” has unpleasant connotations for some which I regret since the first person the word calls to mind for me is Martin Luther King. Whatever the previous connotation of “Negro” was, Dr. King and his followers gave me a different one. )

Dr. Woodson points out the failures in the black churches. Interdenominational competitiveness stood in the way of concerted action. Self-indulgent ministers were more concerned for their life styles than with the good of their communicants.

There was a lack of training available for taking a responsible position. Black youth were encouraged by their teachers to avoid education for the professions because they would have no chance of success there.
A black lawyer was not accorded the respect a white lawyer received, by either blacks or whites.

Technical training in black technical institutes was behind the better training with up to date equipment in private, (read white,) schools.

The absence of encouragement for achievement orientation produced graduates looking for a position not a job. Their first step on the ladder might be their last.

An unwillingness of blacks to take orders from blacks, gave white supervisors an obvious excuse for not promoting young men and women to positions where their orders would be ignored by their fellow black employees.

The flight of wealthy blacks from the communities removed much of the crème del la creme from contribution to the good of the whole, (financial, intelligence, influence in the larger society, leadership skills.)

There was not a history of the black people written by black historians. No shared knowledge of the African culture and accomplishments. No written history of the shared abuse and suffering.

I wonder how this work was received. Publishers published his several books. In its day I would think this a magnificent contribution to the race and Dr. Woodson a hero for writing it. Most people do not like to hear what is wrong. But if they don’t admit what is wrong, how will they fix it?