FROM HOSTAGE TO HISTORIAN
Who would have thought that a young man, the youngest
son of nine children born in New Canton, Virginia in 1875
to James Henry and Anne Eliza Woodson, struggling land-owning
farmers who were previously slaves, would become the first
African. American of slave parents to receive a Ph.D.
in history. Not only that, he became the formulator of
what we now call "African American History Month"
moving from a hostage to a historian.
How did it all be/in? Well history suggest that while
at Harvard, one of Carter G, Woodson's professors claimed
the "Negro had no history", and challenged Woodson
to research and prove the opposite. This ignited the fire
that burned the desire so fierce in Woodson's heart that
he would not stop until he saw to it that African-Americans
finally had their rightful place in recorded American
History. Dr. Woodson created the Association for the Study
of Negro Life and History, as an attempt to create an
"historical alliance" that would collect, preserve
historical sources, and create a "Journal of Negro
History." Four months after the start of the Association,
Woodson published the first issue of the "Journal
of Negro History". His efforts did not stop there.
He hired A.A. Taylor as his first research assistant,
and went on to publish The Negro in Our History in 1922,
which sold out within the year. The next edition was published
the following year, which sold just as quickly, Woodson
and Taylor also worked on data concerning free blacks
in 1830 (Woodson felt that year to be their height as
a distinct class in the South).
In 1925, Dr. Woodson began sending out pamphlets and
brochures to schools, journals, black newspapers, and
others emphasizing the importance of black achievements
and contributions to the United States. Woodson suggested
that a Negro History Week be celebrated, and suggested
ways to do so. He also hoped that in addition to the pride
that the week would instill, that the celebration might
produce more funds for the Association and it's work.
OMEGA PSI PHI
Dr. Woodson was inducted as an honorary member of Omega
Psi Phi, one of the oldest African-American fraternities.
The Omegas celebrated African-American achievements on
February 12th each year, chosen because of Abraham Lincoln's
birthday. Woodson persuades the Omegas to let the Association
sponsor a whole week. That week was chosen not only for
Lincoln's birthday, but also for the birthday of Frederick
Douglass. The success of the celebration was such that
in June of that same year, Woodson received the prestigious
Spingarn Medal from the NAACP for his achievements.
NOT JUST FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS
This celebration was (and still is) not meant only for
African-Americans, but for other ethnic groups as well.
The idea is to learn, and realize the vast contributions,
achievements and phenomenal contributions by mighty African
Americans that are woven into the fabric of this society.
AFRICAN AMERICAN HISPANIC CONNECTION
In our review of Black history we find that in 1492 Pedro
Alonzo Nino, the man who piloted the Santa Mafia was Black.
Even though unnamed, Other Black sailors were said to
be among the first explorers to the New World. Records
indicate that Blacks accompanied Balboa, Ponce de Leon,
Pizarro, and Menendez on their travels and explorations.
In 1525 Spanish explorer Panfilo de Narycz led 300 men
on an iii-fated expedition to Florida. Among the force
that landed in Florida on that April 12, date was Estevanico,
making him the first known Black in Florida. Today Hispanics
headline the Major League baseball but the first Hispanic
ballplayers in the United States could only play in the
Negro League and in the National Association circuit.
A fact that has been largely ignored is that Negro League
was considered a haven for Hispanic ball players. In the
Negro League players were judged on performance not pedigree.
AFRICAN AMERICAN SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS
Performance is essential to an outstanding school system
and among Miami's Black school system leaders are individuals
like the Honorable William "Bill" Turner, Joyce
Knox, Dr. Frederica Wilson and Dr. Solomon Stinson. The
achievements and contributions of these outstanding individuals
would probable go unnoticed but for a time set aside for
the infinite and invaluable recognition by such African
American advocates for quality education. Lectures, speeches,
exhibits and other functions point out the fact that the
Honorable William "Bill" Turner, who exited
the Miami Dade County School System to distinguish himself
as a Florida State Senator, (the Honorable Joyce Knox
left the system and the State of Florida), the Honorable
Dr. Frederica Wilson is on the right road and headed in
the right direction as a Florida State Representative,
and the Honorable Dr. Solomon Stinson whose seasoned approach
continues to win out over ignorance and racism.
DR. SOLOMON STINSON
Dr. Solomon Stinson has to be singled out here because
of his nearly half century of contributing to the uplift~
of our children. Dr. Stinson has served in virtually every
aspect of our Miami Dade County Public Schools, from teacher
to principal, to Deputy Superintendent, to an unprecedented
three-time chairman of our Miami Dade County School Board.
Truly Dr. Stinson is a dignified Role Model, a literal
genius and master of his educational craft, In spite of
the unimaginable indignities he suffered during the days
of segregation and the initial stages of de-segregation
Dr. Stinson persevered and is arguably one of the eminent
champions of our children. Dr, Stinson fearlessly condemns
all possible forms of racial discrimination and uncompromisingly
demands full and equal opportunity for all people. His
severe assertiveness makes him an often-challenged man.
In spite of that, he uses his knowledge of our school
system to ceaselessly promote education, civil rights,
equal opportunity and harmonious race relations for the
betterment of our students, Dr. Stinson wears his wisdom
with grace and honor and continues to forge his legacy
as a prominent member of our Miami Dade County School
Board. So as we celebrate African American history month
let us not neglect the uniqueness of people like Dr. Solomon
Stinson whose unrelenting nature and devotion is credited
with making Miami Dade County Schools a better place for
all of our students.