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SPJ lecture focuses on black history, life of an African American scholar

On April 2, 2013

Carter G. Woodson professor Burnis Morris said Tuesday, during a lecture in Smith Hall, that Woodson used modern pubic relations tactics to sell Black History Week to the black press. Morris’s lecture was the fourth in The Society of Professional Journalists Lecture Series.

“Public Relations was just beginning at the time Woodson started,” Morris said. “Modern PR probably began about the first World War, which is about the time Woodson created his association, and he used many of the tactic that pubic relations experts use today. It’s remarkable that he would have such an understanding of PR that early because it was just developing as a profession.”

Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Woodson was the son of former slaves and attended Douglass High School in Huntington.

“A couple years ago, on Martin Luther King’s birthday in 2011, I went to the underground rail road museum in Cincinnati, and on the way out I found one of Woodson’s books — the ‘Mis-education of a Negro,’” Morris said. “I had read it before, but I bought a copy and reread it, and that’s when I got inspired to examine Woodson in more detail.”

Morris said Woodson got his start in Huntington.

“He loved Huntington and West Virginia. His roots are here, and it’s important for people to see how you can come from such a humble beginning to an important place on the world stage that he created.”

Woodson attend Berea College. Berea College was an integrated college before Kentucky laws made it illegal to school white and black students in the same place. Woodson was also the only offspring of former slaves to earn a Ph.D. in history.

Woodson founded Black History Week in 1926, and is known as the “Daddy of History week.”

Morris graduated from The University of Mississippi with a bachelor of arts in journalism, and received his masters of public administration from the University of Dayton. Morris started working at Marshall University in 2003 as the Carter G. Woodson professor of journalism and mass communications.

The Society of Professional Journalists invited Morris to speak as part of the lecture series, which aims to help students gain more understanding and knowledge about the field of journalism outside of the regular classroom setting.

“Part of going to college is to learn new information and to apply what you learned, and it’s important for students to know more than what they just read on Facebook and have a deeper understanding of where society has been and where its headed,” Morris said. “If you don’t do a lot of reading and if you don’t study or analyze our problems with a historical prospective, you’re not going to get very far — you’re not going to do well.”

Amanda Reesman can be contacted at

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