The Mis-Education of the Negro (Woodson)

I don’t know my history well enough to know to what extent Woodson was in the conversation with Washington and DuBois. He definitely shows deep disdain for the latter.

It is not to his credit that Woodson’s words are still relevant to us today; it is to our shame. He writes clearly and persuasively about the flaws in the education offered to African-Americans. I suspect this is a well-known passage:

When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his action. You do not have to tell him to stand here or go yonder. He will find his “proper place” and stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.

And he will, Woodson argues later, focus on “trifles.” Today, we call them shoes.

There are a few moments I wanted to push back on, to question; that’s one part of reading such a monumental book alone.

Do you teach African-American students? Are you preparing to teach African-American students? This is mandatory.


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