This is a difficult book on so many levels. First, it was originally published in 1933 so the language is somewhat outdated, and at times somewhat jarring. Second, it was originally a series of essays; bound together as a book there is not enough fluidity between the chapters, and there is some repetition. But mostly, it is difficult because it is a polemic on the challenges that African Americans faced (and still face) in our education system due to the vestiges of slavery.
Carter G. Woodson was the first African American historian of African American history He began “Black History Month” back in 1926. He believed that the American public school system was created and designed to ensure that Black minds continued to be enslaved. Written 20 years before Brown v. Board of Education, very few African American children had the opportunity to attend integrated schools. And when they did, they suffered not only from not being taught anything positive about their history and rich heritage, but far too often were taught to accept the negative stereotypes imposed by the white hierarchy.
As difficult as it is, this book is so important – because, unfortunately, it remains true today. It was written as an indictment of the public education system of the 1930s, and it continues to be an indictment of our current public school system. As the back cover of my version notes “The Mis-Education of the Negro is one of the most important books on education ever written…A must read for anyone working in the education field.” I would agree. A must read for anybody who works as an educator, and for every parent who deals with the (mis)education system.