Blog Post Jennifer Errick Feb 2, 2024

Celebrating the 'Book Man' of Washington, D.C.

The pioneering educator Carter G. Woodson founded the precursor to Black History Month in 1926. Though temporarily closed for renovations, the Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site is scheduled to reopen later this year.

Decades ago, residents of Washington D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood would regularly see a man walking down 9th Street carrying books in his arms — so many books, they were sometimes piled high enough to obscure his face. Thus, the groundbreaking historian Carter G. Woodson, known nationally as the “Father of Black History,” also earned himself the local nickname of “Book Man.”

Blog Post

Remembering the Founder of Black History Month

The National Park Service and its partners offer ways to honor the legacy of this scholar and pioneer who changed the way we understand American history.

See more ›

It is a fitting tribute to a scholar who devoted his life to learning and education, who changed cultural awareness by documenting and distributing information on African American history and achievements, who wrote or coauthored more than 20 books — and who lived in a home filled with stacks and stacks of reading material.

Originally from Virginia, Woodson moved to Washington, D.C., to study at the Library of Congress while he was completing his doctoral degree at Harvard University. He purchased the 9th Street home in 1915 and lived there from 1922 until his death in 1950, keeping not just his extensive personal library on the premises, but also the offices of two grassroots organizations he founded and their numerous books and publications as well.

In 2001, after the home had stood vacant for years, the National Trust for Historic Preservation placed it on its list of America’s Most Endangered Historic Places. Congress designated the building as a national park site in 2006, as well as the buildings on either side of the main residence, but all three structures needed extensive stabilization and restoration work.

Carter G. Woodson site

Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site in Washington, D.C. 

camera icon NPS / Victoria Stauffenberg

The Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site officially opened to the public in May 2017, then closed again for more extensive renovations. Fortunately, the home is scheduled to open again later this year.

When the home was reopened in 2017, it had very little in the way of furnishings or personal effects, and visitors weren’t able to see the Book Man’s actual books — many of which were donated to universities and other learning institutions decades ago. They were, however, able to get an authentic feel for how Woodson lived and worked.

The interior and exterior of the building were painstakingly renovated to resemble its appearance in Woodson’s time, including reconstructing the original façade brick by brick, rebuilding a circular staircase, and restoring original fireplaces and flooring.

Woodson, who was deeply professionally driven, reportedly joked that his property was not a home office, but an “office home.” Even empty, the house and rangers’ interpretation of it offer insight into Woodson’s strict character, his considerable professional accomplishments, and his connections to contemporaries he both taught and learned from, such as Mary McLeod Bethune, Nannie Helen Burroughs and Langston Hughes.

Stay up to date on the reopening by visiting the National Park Service website or by calling 202-426-5961.

This is an updated version of a previously published story.

 

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About the author

  • Jennifer Errick Managing Editor of Online Communications

    Jennifer co-produces NPCA's podcast, The Secret Lives of Parks, and writes and edits a wide variety of online content. She has won multiple awards for her audio storytelling.

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