Black History Dream Team

Dr. Charles H. Wesley, Louis R. Mehlinger, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Dr. Carter G. Woodson
Dr. Charles H. Wesley, Louis R. Mehlinger, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Dr. Carter G. Woodson


Teachers Are Important

We all have that teacher that inspires us; that makes us want to know more and guide us.  Certainly, both Dr. Carter G. Woodson and Mary McLeod Bethune were these type of teachers. They had a lot in common and shared a friendship while both living in Washington, D.C. These two individuals shaped the course of American history and were instrumental in the creation of Negro History Week, known today as Black History Month. But, before they were shaping American history, they were shaping the minds of many young African Americans with their shared passion for education, equality, and civic engagement.

Inspiring Teachers - Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune began her career as an educator in 1896, teaching at the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute in Augusta, Georgia founded by Lucy Craft Laney. While at Haines under Laney's leadership/mentorship, Bethune adopted the philosphy of educating girls and women to improve the conditions of Black people. After a year at Haines, she was transferred to the Kindell Institue in Sumter, South Carolina where she met and married her husband.

After marrying, having her son, and moving to Florida, she dreamt of opening her own school for Black girls. This dream became real on October 3, 1904 when she opened the Daytona Literary and Industrial Training Institute for Negro Girls in Daytona Beach, Florida, with only $1.50, five little girls, and faith in God. That institution has developed to what we know today as Bethune-Cookman University, and she enlisted the help of her church and community and did what many today would believe is impossible.


Inspiring Teachers - Dr. Carter G. Woodson

Dr. Carter G. Woodson also had a career in education. He knew that the role of African Americans had been completely ignored or misrepresented by historians, so he dedicated his life to correct and affirm their role and created the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, Inc., known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Inc. (ASALH).  He understood that education and expanding social and professional connections among Black and white people would reduce racism.  He had worked for several years as a teacher in Winona, West Virginia before returning to his high school alma mater to serve as its principal. For several years, he took a job as a teacher and school supervisor in the Philippines under the auspices of the War Department. While in the Philippines, he saw the mistakes made in Filipino education and vowed to makeeducation more relevant to Black Americans when he returned home.

Upon his arrival in the nation's capital, he taught American history, English, French, and Spanish languages at the M Street School (now known as Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High School), and then worked as principal at the Armstrong Manual Training School in 1918. Later, he worked as the dean of the School of Liberal Arts at Howard University. Then, he became the dean at West Virginia Collegiate Institute (now known as West Virginia State University). After a few years, he realized that ASALH needed his undivided attention, so he retired from academia. However, he never retired from educating the masses.
Associated Publishers Journal of Negro History and Negro History Bulletin on a table in the Woodson Home
Materials in the packing and shipping room at Woodson's office-home.


Two Powerhouses Join Forces

In 1936, Mary McLeod Bethune became the first female president of ASALH, and she encouaged her good friend and colleague Dr. Carter G. Woodson to create The Negro History Bulletin.  While The Journal of Negro History was popular within the educated classes, both educators wanted something that would be easily accessible and that would call on everyday people, especially teachers and young students. “The organization will not only produce scholarly monographs, but also collected and published primary research materials that other scholars could use."

Woodson realized that he had a major responsibility to preserve historical as well as contemporary documents on the Black experience for future generations. He was determined to change and correct the racist biases that plagued historical work about the African American experience and their role in American History.  One of his highest priorities was breaking with the misconception that Black people were primarily victims, but instead shined a light on their more important and active roles in American History.

Reflecting on the Past, Present, and Future

Take a moment to reflect on the legacy these two giants left for us. All of the hours of hard work, ultimately working for a country that would be a home to us all. They knew the future was secured with the correct and proper education of our youth. Learning about the deeds of our forefathers and mothers helps to elevate our worthiness. Their friendship and teamwork serves as an example and an inspiration to us all.

We all have had teachers that have inspired us to be better and to look to a brighter future. Who has inspired you? How will you inspire others?

Last updated: August 12, 2023

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

National Capital Parks-East
1900 Anacostia Drive SE

Washington, DC 20020


(202) 690-5185
The Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site is a part of the portfolio of parkland and historic sites of National Capital Parks-East.

Contact Us