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The Mis-Education of the Negro - Carter G. Woodson

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The Mis-Education of the Negro- Carter G. Woodson

From the beginning when the African slaves first set foot on American soil, the Negro has been perceived as an inferior race. Unfortunately, the effects from slavery still take a hold of the Negro race even today. In this novel, Carter G. Woodson attempts to thoroughly explain why exactly this has come to exist. Although written years ago, the ideals in his book are still seen to be true. Woodson's theory is that because of the way the Negro is treated by the oppressor, he has been brainwashed to believe his inferiority to other races to be the truth. This in turn keeps him from trying to advance in any shape or form because he thinks that he will step out of his place. "When you control a man's thinking you don't have to worry about his actions. He will find his "proper place" and stay in it." (Woodson, xix)

Woodson believed that the oppressor starts the mis-education of the Negro in school. "The thought of the inferiority of the Negro is drilled into him in almost every class he enters and in almost every book he studies."(Woodson, 2) The author felt that this was the root of the problem. When the Negro is at school, he begins to see himself as a curse because the only references made to his race in the textbooks is one of slavery and ignorance. From learning this in school, the Negro in turn becomes discouraged and any aspirations he might have had at one time now seems impossible. Now feeling that he is worthless, he then thinks that he must do menial work or turn to a life of crime. Woodson describes this problem as the "worst sort of lynching."(Woodson 3) If everyone including the Negro themselves believes that they are inferior, then it is not seen as a problem to kill them at will or make them slaves. Woodson saw that even the Negroes with a good education had an attitude towards their own people. "Educated Negroes" being taught by the oppressor believed that it was something wrong with their race and would be much happier if they were white. This is because in school, they are taught to admire the Hebrews, Greeks, and Latin and that it is something wrong with the African. Instead of being avid supporters of their race and starting a movement to help their people, they would rather buy and sell to whites because they truly think it is better that way. While in school they are taught how to live the American way of life forgetting that the same rules do not apply to them because of the color of their skin. When the educated Negro finally graduates and gets into the world, he becomes a bitter man. He immediately feels like he has been pushed into a corner because he thinks he is too good to live like the "other negroes" but comes to understand that no matter how much of an education he receives the white man will never accept him as one of their own. These "educated negroes" are very race conscious and do not want anything to do with the ideal of the separation of the two races. For example, he doesn't like the idea of "African art" because he feels that we are all Americans and by trying to recognize the Negro race in that way is an invitation of sorts to be racially discriminated against. Woodson believes that they feel this way because of their strong need to be identical to the white man. They fail to see that the white man already sees them as inferior and recognizing good things about their race is a way for the Negroes to elevate themselves, feel some kind of pride, and justify their right to exist.

In the book, Woodson tries to explain how the Negroes' point of view of themselves drifted so far away from the truth. Most of his blame goes to the higher institutions and universities where in every subject the Negro is either not mentioned at all or kept to a minimum. Teachers of Negroes in the first schools after emancipation were white and had a strong bias when teaching their students. They never came out and said that the Negro was inferior, but everything in their curriculum suggested so. Even when Negro teachers came in to place, the author stated the teachings didn't have much of a deviation because the Negro teachers are mis-educated and they taught their students exactly how they had grown up to learn about themselves. To make matters worse, the Negro colleges and universities are being run by white presidents and taught by white teachers that are less qualified then the Negroes that work under them. Woodson felt that this wasn't good at all because in order for the Negro to evolve it was best the he was taught by well qualified people of his own race. "The Negro will never be able to show all his originality as long as his efforts are directed from without by those who socially proscribe him." (Woodson, 28) He felt that the best way was for the Negro to be taught by those who understood him.

One of the problems that Woodson felt there was with the education at that time was that the Negroes learned very little in school on how to make a living. In school, the Negro isn't taught the business side of things when it comes to a job or career. This factor prevents the Negro from employing one another and in turn they are left to wait and hope that a white businessman will hire them. The problem with this factor is that whites at this time only called for the Negro when all the workers of their own race had been taken care of. The author feels that the negro easily throws away good opportunities by not turning something that they are good at into a thriving business because they may feel that they have a college education and that they are to good for it. The author uses the example of a white professor who resigned his position to run a laundry mat for Negroes and became rich from the idea. Woodson states that if one would have suggested this same idea to a Negro he would have become insulted with this idea and would feel that since he has a college education he is too good for such common business. "The so-called education of Negro college graduates leads them to throw away opportunities which they have and to go in quest of those which they do not find."(Woodson, 39) The author believes that any good opportunity should not be wasted because even if you have a diploma it is not guaranteed that you will find work in that field especially with the prejudices of his world against him.

Another problem discovered by the author was that Negroes don't trust other Negroes when it comes to business. He talks about a negro man that stated," If we invest our money in some enterprise of our own, those in charge will misuse or misappropriate it. I have learned from the study of economics that we had just as well keep on throwing it away."(Woodson, 41) Some mis-educated Negroes gossips



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