Each year in the month of February, we celebrate the lives of Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, and many other famous African Americans. Yet there are many African Americans throughout history who have made great contributions we know nothing about. Carter Reads the Newspaper is picture book biography of one man, Carter G. Woodson, and his commitment to learning, truth, and the creation of Black History Month.

Carter Reads the NewspaperCarter Reads the Newspaper
Written by Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrated by Don Tate

Carter G. Woodson was born to two formerly enslaved people ten years after the end of the Civil War. Though his father could not read, he believed in being an informed citizen. So Carter read the newspaper to him every day. When he was still a teenager, Carter went to work in the coal mines. There he met a man named Oliver Jones, and Oliver did something important: he asked Carter not only to read to him and the other miners, but also research and find more information on the subjects that interested them. “My interest in penetrating the past of my people was deepened,” Carter wrote. His journey would take him many more years, traveling around the world and transforming the way people thought about history.

“Young readers will be caught up in his story…. Quotes are seamlessly woven into the narrative, and a time line, list of sources, and bibliography add research appeal. Of special note are the illustrations, which include more than 40 portraits of black leaders… Their images and one-line biographies will pique further interest, making this a valuable resource for school and public libraries.” ―Booklist

“Hopkinson skillfully shapes Carter’s childhood, family history and formative experiences into a cohesive story.…the inclusion of notable figures from black history reinforces the theme (a key is in the backmatter). An important and inspiring tale well told.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Conversational… Delicately textured mixed-media illustrations…offer spare, stylized images…” ―Publishers Weekly

“Thorough back matter… A charmingly illustrated picture book biography for elementary schoolers.” ―School Library Journal

“Exemplary… This inspiring picture book combines a rich but focused text with clear, expressive mixed-media illustrations. It sheds light on an important, inspiring, but little-known subject, and the supplemental back matter gives weight to the exceedingly important takeaways that history must include all people, and that anyone can change history.” ―Shelf Awareness

Facts about Dr. Carter G. Woodson:

  • Carter G. Woodson was born December 19, 1875 in New Canton, Virginia.
  • He worked as a coal miner for three years before he finished high school.
  • At the age of 37, Carter earned a PhD in history from Harvard University, the second African American to do so.
  • Carter was the first and only Black American whose parents had been slaves to receive a doctorate in history.
  • In 1915 Carter founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, an organization still thriving today.
  • In 1926 Carter founded Negro History Week (which became Black History Month), to be observed in February, in honor of the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

It’s surprising that someone so integral to our celebration of Black history does not have more books written about his life. Carter never wrote much about his own personal history. But we know that he listened and learned from those around him, and then shared what he learned with others.

Carter Reads the Newspaper Poster

Because of Carter’s great and lasting contribution to Black history, throughout the month of February in celebration of Black History Month, we will spotlight the lives and legacies of Black men and women who have contributed to our history, and share resources to help young readers learn about the significance of Carter G. Woodson’s life and his contribution to society. Follow along on our Twitter page as we highlight some important and lesser-known figures in Black history throughout February to continue Carter Woodson’s goal of celebrating a history “void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.”

Here are more resources to help celebrate Black History Month:

Download your own Carter G. Woodson poster.

Check out the teacher’s guide for Carter Reads the Newspaper.

Print out your own copies of the endpapers of Carter Reads the Newspaper,
which features portraits of Black leaders throughout history.

Read our Q&A with author Deborah Hopkinson and illustrator Don Tate.

Check out our round-up of books to read during Black History Month and beyond.

Carter Reads the Newspaper is available at your local libraryindie bookstore, or Barnes & Noble!