Black-White Woodson Reconciliation

Black-White Woodson Reconciliation (BWWR): Background

  • 1943-1984. Dr. Craig Woodson became a professional musician, music educator and business owner in Los Angeles, CA (Ethnomusic, Inc., 1974) after high school, all the time knowing that his genealogy went back to 1619 in Jamestown, VA. However, he did not pay much attention to this history. His early interest in jazz (Tony Williams) and African drumming with Ghanaian master drummers in the 1960s led to travel to Africa and beginning in 1977 then to living in Ghana doing work in African musical instrument making at a university. This work including finishing his PhD (U.C.L.A.) on the subject of Ghanaian drumming.
  • 1984-1988. Just after turning 40 in 1984, Dr. Craig Woodson, now an ethnomusicologist, saw a new U.S. postage stamp of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, celebrating the ‘father’ of Black History Month. After asking his father about who black Woodsons were, Craig was directed to the family’s genealogy (published Memphis, 1915). There he read that white Woodsons were among the first enslavers of the first Africans coming to Jamestown, VA in 1619. After over a year of embarrassment and silence about this story, he finally told his good friend and colleague, Bette Cox—an African American music educator in Los Angeles.  Finding the story interesting, she in turn introduced Craig to her old family friend, Dr. Edgar Hardaway Woodson who is related to Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the father of Black History Month. She said, “Do you want to meet him?” That day in 1987, Edgar and Craig met and began a long friendship, unraveling both of their histories. This led to a family meeting a decade later in 1998.

Black White Woodson Reconciliation: Sankofa Ceremony

  • 1988-1998. Despite a move from Los Angeles to Cleveland, Ohio in 1989, Craig stayed in touch with Edgar, his wife Aileen, his daughter Adele and other family members. Eventually they mutually decided to bring the two sides of family together, black and white Woodsons, in what became an apology ceremony by Craig on behalf of his white Woodson ancestors to Edgar representing the black Woodsons for the holocaust of slavery caused to Edgar’s family. Craig also felt the meeting should include members of the Asante Cultural Society (ACS), contacts he had made through his work in Ghana. As Craig found out the Asante people were contributors to the enslavement of Africans and felt that they should be given the opportunity to make statements at the meeting. Thus representing ASC at BWWR was Sam Appiah, aka Nana Osei Tutu, head of that Society, his family and other members. Also in attendance was Diallo Riddle, a descendent of Anne Eliza Riddle, the mother of Carter G. Woodson.
  • The idea behind the Woodson family ceremony stems from the Ghanaian Twi language word, Sankofa, (three words in one ‘San-ko-fa—literally ‘don’t forget-go back-take’) which generally means, ‘one cannot move forward without remembering the past.’
  • 1998. The Black White Woodson Reconciliation: Sankofa Ceremony took place in October 1998 at the Edgar’s church, the Holman United Methodist Church, Rev. James Lawson, minister; he was a close confidante of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. At Craig’s first meeting, Rev. Lawson told him that there needed to be millions of these ceremonies.  The three-hour Ceremony included Craig’s apology, his presentation of gifts, and statements by some members of the over 40 who attended, including members of the Asante Cultural Society—all followed by meal with a variety African-American dishes. The event was photographed by Alfred Benjamin, Craig’s former father-in-law and taped by two videographers.
  • This link is a paper describing Craig’s Woodson story and Sankofa Ceremony, was presented at the 2016 ASALH National Conference. [see Link 2]
The gift-giving portion of the 1998 Sankofa BWWF meeting at the Holman United Methodist Church, Los Angeles, CA. Shown left to right are Aileen Woodson, Adele Woodson, Edgar Woodson, and Craig Woodson.
Black and white Woodsons and others who attended.
Woodsons at 1998 BWWR Sankofa ceremony. Diallo Riddle is second in from the right, back row.
  • After the passing of Edgar (2004) and his wife Aileen (2001), Adele Woodson Bailey and Craig continued communication as one family, knowing that they likely shared a blood relationship.
  • Photo 4. In 2003, Craig was introduced to Edgar’s sister Thelma L. Woodson (1920-2018) and her family who lived in Lima, Ohio. Thelma is at the left in the front low in 2011 photograph below. This began their close relationship and communication, including her family’s attendance at the annual Dr. Carter G. Woodson Sankofa Juneteenth celebration in Cleveland (2010 – 2017), Lynn Hampton, Director.

Black White Families Reconciliation (BWFR): A Protocol

  • Craig is now working on a protocol for those families who share surnames among black and white members to meet in the spirit of reconciliation and begin to deal with the divide created before, during and after the enslavement of Africans in America.  We are calling this Protocol, Black White Families Reconciliation (BWFR).
  • Currently the BWFR Protocol is a process using the creative arts, particularly drumming, drum making and drum circles along with storytelling to heal the racial divide within black and white families who share a surname.
  • This link is a paper describing the offerings of BWWR and BWFR programming at your location. It was presented first at the 2017 National ASALH Conference. [See Link 3]

Fundraising events for Drums of Humanity BWWR and BWFR help to:

  1. Further develop the BWFR Protocol
  2. Assist with BWFR ceremonies or meetings.
  3. Edit extensive footage of the 1998 BWWR Sankofa Ceremony into a full-length documentary.
  4. Promote this BWWR video and our BWFR Protocol to a wider audience.
  5. Conduct presentations on BWWR and show how to produce a local BWFR event.
This video link is a crowdfunding appeal by Adele Woodson-Bailey and Craig Woodson for support of the BWWR Sankofa Ceremony and BWFR Protocol.