Founded in 1981, the University of Virginia's Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies is named in honor of native Virginian Carter Godwin Woodson. Born in 1875 in Buckingham County to parents who were formerly enslaved, Woodson went on to earn a Ph.D. in History at Harvard University in 1912, only the second African-American to receive a Harvard doctorate, his predecessor being the eminent scholar, W.E.B. DuBois. Woodson was instrumental in bringing professional recognition to the study of African-American history during a period when most historians held the opinion that African Americans were a people without history. He founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915 (later to be re-named the Association for the Study of African American Life and History) and its scholarly journal, The Journal of Negro History (now the Journal of African-American History), in 1916. Under his leadership, Negro History Week (now Black History Month) was inaugurated in the United States as an annual celebration of African-American achievement.
The Woodson Institute's founding director, historian Armstead L. Robinson, began his tenure with a two-fold mandate: to enhance the research and teaching of African-American Studies in the schools and departments of the University of Virginia and to establish an African-American Studies Research Center which would make important contributions to scholarship and learning at this major southern university. Since its inception, the Institute has promoted interdisciplinary and collaborative research and interpretation of the African and African-American experience in a global context. The Woodson Institute administers the undergraduate major/minor degree in African-American and African Studies (AAS). This program offers students the opportunity to explore African and African American studies in an interdisciplinary curriculum, raising awareness of its significance as an integrated area of study and of its key role in transforming the face of the U. S. Higher Education over the past quarter century. We also offer a Distinguished Majors Program (DMP) for fourth-year students who wish to conduct intensive research culminating in a thesis, and sponsor limited opportunities for study abroad in Africa. The program's minor in African Studies (AS) was initiated in 2007.
Through its internationally acclaimed residential fellowship program, the Woodson Institute offers Pre- and Post-doctoral scholars pursuing research of topical interest a diverse intellectual community promoting scholarly exchange and support. Selected through an intense international competition, the Woodson fellows are a diverse group of young scholars from different disciplines in the humanities and social sciences who work on a wide array of topics in African American and African Studies and related fields. Over the course of its twenty-five year history, the Institute has sponsored more than 125 scholars whose work has appeared in numerous books and articles published by the foremost university presses and academic journals. In addition to advancing the research goals of the Institute, the presence of these fellows has enriched the number and range of course offerings available within the undergraduate curriculum and has been instrumental in faculty recruitment at U.Va.
Going forward, our primary goal at the Carter G. Woodson Institute is to continue the pioneering work of our namesake through an active program of undergraduate teaching and curriculum development; original interdisciplinary research; institutional and financial support of scholars (while the institute assists in securing appointments for Visiting Scholars, we are currently unable to provide financial support for such appointments.); conferences and colloquia; publications and public outreach projects.