The quotes featured below have been taken from The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History. I have adapted the quotes to facilitate contemporary reading by modernizing the language.


One should rely upon protest only when it is supported by a constructive program.

It is very clear that if African-Americans got their conception of religion from slaveholders, libertines, and murderers, there may be something wrong about it…

If you can control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think that he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one.

African-Americans themselves in certain parts join with Euro-Americans, to keep out of school, teachers who may be bold enough to teach the truth as it is. They usually say the races here are getting along amicably now, and we do not want these peaceful relationships disturbed by teaching of new political thought. What they mean to say with respect to the peaceful relation of the races, then, is that the African-Americans have been terrorized to the extent that they are afraid even to discuss political matters publicly.

History shows that it does not matter who is in power…those who have not learned to do for themselves and have to depend solely on others never obtain any more rights or privileges in the end than they did in the beginning.

The lack of confidence of the African-American in himself and in his possibilities is what has kept him down. His mis-education has been a perfect success in this respect.

If the African-American in the ghetto must eternally be fed by the hand that pushes him into the ghetto, he will never become strong enough to get out of the ghetto.

The African-Americans will not advance far if they continue to waste their energy abusing those who misdirect and exploit them. The exploiters of the race are not so much at fault as the race itself. If African-Americans persist in permitting themselves to be handled in this fashion they will always find some one at hand to impose upon them. The matter is one which rests largely with the African-Americans themselves. The race will free itself from exploiters just as soon as it decides to do so. No one else can accomplish this task for the race. It must plan and do for itself.

When you hear a man talking, then, always inquire as to what he is doing or what he has done for humanity. Oratory and resolutions do not avail much. If they did, the African race would be in a paradise on earth. It may be well to repeat here the saying that old men talk of what they have done, young men of what they are doing, and fools of what they expect to do. The African race has a rather large share of the last mentioned class.

Philosophers have long conceded, however, that every man has two educations: “that which is given to him, and the other that which he gives himself. Of the two kinds the latter is by far the more desirable. Indeed all that is most worthy in a man, he must work out and conquer for himself. It is that which constitutes our real and best nourishment. What we are merely taught seldom nourishes the mind like that which we teach ourselves.”

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