Paying tribute to the Pan African giant Dr W.E.B. DuBois, Dr King eloquently stated: “He could have amassed riches and honour, lived in material splendour and applause from the most powerful and important men of his time, instead he lived part of his creative life in the South most of it in modest means, most of it in poverty and he died in exile, praised sparingly and in many circles ignored”.
It would be hard to argue with Dr King’s heartfelt words and analysis of Dr DuBois. However, since Dr Carter G. Woodson was not part of that captivating reflection, it did feel a bit incomplete. We recently saw President Mugabe give the African Union its marching order by stating, “Taking charge of natural resources was the first step towards the African Renaissance”.
Because the President takes great pride celebrating Zimbabwe’s fallen national heroes, we wonder if he realised with that powerful and emphatic statement, he invoked the spirit of the Father of African History Dr Carter Goodwin Woodson.
Before Africans at home and abroad raise eyebrows, at an attempt to draw parallels between the lives of Dr Woodson and President Mugabe, our instinctive response is moving into the future, both of these giants would demand that Africans resist being taught that chattel slavery and settler colonialism are separate episodes of our collective experience.
The next point of paramount importance, is that Dr Woodson was born in the state of Virginia, which had more slaves that any other state inside US borders, meanwhile President Mugabe was born in a country colonised by British the very architects of settler colonialism. We then have to highlight that Dr Woodson was born in 1875, which is not only 12 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, but 15 years before Cecil John Rhodes and the British South African Company colonised Zimbabwe.
In his book The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 Dr Woodson eloquently states, “The early advocates of the education of Negroes were of three classes: first masters who desired to increase the economic efficiency of their labour supply; second, sympathetic persons who wished to help the oppressed; third, zealous missionaries who believing that the divine love came equally to all, taught slaves the English language that they might learn the principles of the Christian religion.”
Though President Mugabe and Dr Woodson were not contemporaries, Dr Woodson succeeds in describing Father Jerome O’Hea the Irish Catholic Priest, who is credited for moulding President Mugabe’s intellect at a very young age.
As Dr Woodson describes the ideological divide amongst slave owners in particular and whites in general, at that exact moment in US history, in Southern Rhodesia you had the Native Education ordinance of 1907, the establishment of the Department of Native Education in 1927 along with the Education Act of 1929. The aim of this act was to allow poor students the chance to earn money after school and during vacations, this act also extended grants to disabled students with disabilities.
Both President Mugabe and Dr Woodson are very learned and academically accomplished, President Mugabe has a Bachelors of Arts from Fort Hare University (in South Africa) and Bachelors of Administration from the University of South Africa.
The President also has a Bachelor of Laws and Masters of Law and Science from the University of London External Programme, in addition to two Law Degrees in prison.
When it comes to formal education Dr Woodson was a late bloomer, he didn’t earn his High School Diploma until the age of 20, however this was followed up by a BA from Berea College in Kentucky, a Masters from the University of Chicago and next becoming the second African after Dr DuBois to earn a PH D from Harvard University. These two intellectual giants were also as comfortable in a classroom, as a surgeon was in front of an operating table, or a dentist when working on someone’s teeth. In the case of President Mugabe the highlight of his teaching career, was when he taught at St. Mary’s College in Takoradi, Ghana, Dr Woodson was the Prinicpal and teaching at Armstrong High School when working on his Doctoral thesis entitled The Disruption of Virginia.
In his definition of education Dr Woodson states “The educational system of a country is worthless unless it revolutionises the social order”.
With that being said the Land Reform Programme of 2000 and the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Bill of 2008, would certainly have his blessing.
Because Africans in the US endured 250 years of forced free labour our extended family in Zimbabwe, would be genuinely interested in our relationship to the economy in 1890, the same year the BSAC took over our sacred land. Since President Mugabe and Dr Woodson dedicated their life to fighting the slave and colonial mentality, one wonders how they would perceive Cecil Rhodes being voted the 56th Greatest South African on a poll conducted by SABC.
In his book entitled the Negro Wage Earner published in 1930 Dr Woodson masterfully chronicles our collective relationship to the work force,in 1890 this was the breakdown of labor Agricultural Pursuits 1,728,325 56.2 percent Domestic and Personal Service 956,734 31 percent Manufacturing and Mechanical Pursuits 208,374 6.8 percent Trade and Transportation 145,717 4.8 percent Professional Service 1.1 percent
The next aspect of this dynamic Dr Woodson brilliantly shines light on a group of workers that were carpenters, bricklayers, plasterers, tobacco strippers, iron steel hands, coal miners, saw and planning mill operatives.
The following year after Zimbabwe’s independence, President Mugabe made arrangements to purchase the Herald from the Argus group with a 20 million dollar grant from Nigeria, that decision would have melted Dr Woodson’s heart because in 1920 he founded Associated Publishers the first publishing company owned by a son of Africa inside US borders.
For those Africans who remember the former First Lady and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, made international headlines for hijacking one of our sacred African proverbs about our children being raised by an entire village, you can find closure in knowing Dr Woodson wrote a book entitled African Myths and Proverbs in 1928.
Those Africans on what Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah called a Revolutionary Path don’t like when White Liberals engage in masquerades or camouflage, when Mrs Clinton co-sponsored the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001, and stated neither
Commandant Fidel or Commandant Raul Castro really want the US blockade on Cuba lifted we accept that wholeheartedly.
Since Africans all over the world consider the Brown VS Board of Education a milestone in the struggle against segregation, we should not forget that in Dr Woodson’s most well-known work the Miseducation of the Negro published in 1933, that he exposed during segregation whites ripped the pages of the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights out of the Social Studies Textbooks, to ensure our children never learned this material and used it as an instrument of protest.
We are almost certain that President Mugabe and Dr Woodson would want our comrades in Zimbabwe and the youth especially, to be informed that in 1896 at the exact moment Zimbabweans launched the first Chimurenga, Africans in the States were dealing with the epic Plessy VS Ferguson against segregation case in the courtroom. During that same year we were forced to establish the National Medical Association, because the American Medical Association was off limits to our people who entered the medical profession.
Because President Mugabe is a proud disciple of Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, he is well aware of Nkrumah inviting Dr Du Bois home to Ghana to complete the Encyclopedia Africana project, that DuBois called for in 1909 the year Nkrumah was born.
That revolutionary overture by Osagyefo Nkrumah validated the assertion of Dr Woodson, that white philanthropists and liberals would never allow revolutionary thinkers, to complete a project of that magnitude as long as they held the purse strings.
The uncompromising stand Dr Woodson took on this question may have been more militant and thought provoking than any of his writings.
There are two other crucial areas of President Mugabe’s commitment to education for Zimbabweans, that would have touched Dr Woodson’s heart.
The first is President Mugabe’s commitment to establish the Herbert Chitepo Ideological College in Zimbabwe, the second is President Mugabe is the Chancellor to all the Universities in Zimbabwe, which illustrates his commitment to Higher and Tertiary Education.
Because Dr Woodson is the founder of African History month which is celebrated in February and President Mugabe’s birthday is in the same month.
Let us celebrate their experiences, legacies and contributions to the African Renaissance.

News Reporter