The origins of Black History Month can be traced back nearly a hundred years to an unassuming, three-story brick rowhouse in Washington.
In 1922, Carter G. Woodson, known as “the father of Black history,” bought the home at 1538 Ninth Street for $8,000. The home served as the headquarters for the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (which is now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, or A.S.A.L.H.). It was where he ran the Associated Publishers, the publishing house focused on African American culture and history at a time when many other publishers wouldn’t accept works on the topic. It’s where The Journal of Negro History and The Negro History Bulletin were based, and it’s where he initiated the first Negro History Week — the precursor to Black History Month — in 1926.
“If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated,” Dr. Woodson famously wrote.
The site, owned by the National Park Service, is being restored and will likely be open to visitors starting this fall, a spokesperson for the Park Service said.
Though Dr. Woodson was the kind of neighbor who doted on children playing on the street and his stoop, even as other adults told them to behave, 1538 Ninth Street was more about his life’s work than serving as a traditional residence. It became known as Dr. Woodson’s “office home,” as Willie Leanna Miles, who was a managing director of the Associated Publishers, put it in her 1991 article “Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson as I Recall Him, 1943-1950.” The article was published in The Journal of Negro History, which was founded by Dr. Woodson and is still running as The Journal of African American History today.