Black History is Our [Filipino] History

Carter G. Woodson & Thomasite Pedagogy

[Published 2003 in the Filipino American Herald. Black History is Our History by Freedom Allah Siyam]

In February of 1926, the “Father of Black History” Carter Godwin

Woodson organized the first Negro History Week in Washington, D.C.,

which would later become national Black History Month in the 1960’s.

An interesting fact about Woodson’s achievements is that upon

completion of his Bachelors degree he taught and served as a

supervisor in the Philippine public schools between 1903 and 1907.

This means that Carter G. Woodson was of the 600 U.S. teachers shipped

to the Philippines to indoctrinate Filipinos through a curriculum

established to miseducate Filipinos. The curriculum consisted of

teaching American history, about American heroes, American patriotic

songs, and the teaching of English which would further divide the

population of the Philippines along the lines of the learned and the

un-learned. Above all, the curriculum placed an emphasis on White

Supremacy and non-white inferiority by propagating the fallacy that

Filipinos were unfit for self-government and that the Americans were

there to civilize them reach that degree of intelligence and ability.

The Filipino people were hoodwinked while America raped and pillaged

the Philippines for its bountiful natural resources to fuel America’s

industries.

Through his travels and experiences Woodson developed an enhanced

philosophy of History. He understood that History is not just a mere

collection of facts, but must be developed to a higher understanding

of the social conditions and contexts of those facts. And with the

observation of those conditions an historian must arrive at a

reasonable interpretation of those facts. After assessing his life and

developing his research on Black history, Carter G. Woodson wrote The

Mis-Education of the Negro (1933). In which he stated: “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.”

Although this fact cannot be traced in the works of Woodson, it can be

hypothesized that it was Woodson’s direct participation and

observation in the American miseducation process in the Philippines

that led him to his understanding of the miseducation of black

communities in America. And even though it was the miseducation of

Blacks, Natives and poor whites in America that provided the framework

for the miseducation of Filipinos, it took Woodson a journey 8,000

miles outside of the racist conditions of America, to see how the

education system cultivated the cultural training and conditioning –

not the education – of non-people who have suffered the exploitive and

oppressive conditions of slavery, colonization and imperialism.

Woodson saw that America’s legacy of domination facilitated a

psychology of slavery in the descendants of enslaved Africans here in

America.

Woodson’s remarkable book was obviously an inspiration to Filipino

historian Renato Constantino when he wrote The Miseducation of the

Filipino (1982), in which Constantino stated: “The most effective

means of subjugating a people is to capture their minds. Military

victory does not necessarily signify conquest. As long as feelings of

resistance remain in the hearts of the vanquished, no conqueror is

secureā€¦.Education therefore, serves as a weapon in wars of colonial

conquest (2).” And closed his short but powerful essay with: We must

now think of ourselves, of our salvation, of our future. And unless we

prepare the minds of the young for this endeavor, we shall always be a

pathetic people with no definite goals and no assurance of

preservation (19).”

Carter G. Woodson and Renato Constantino insightfully recognized that

while the physical chains have been removed, it is the chain on the

brain – slave mentality or colonial mentality – that remained a

primary obstacle in the way to genuine freedom. Additionally, both

Woodson and Constantino would conclude that the unfinished task is to

decolonize our minds, remove the chain from our brains and make our

way to genuine freedom and self-determination. Self-determination is a

degree of power exhibited when a people reclaim their culture and

history and work towards the maintenance of their identity and dignity

in a society that has marginalized their culture and history for the

purpose of exploitation.