Community Organizer Robert L. Woodson, Sr.
My wife and I met Mr. Woodson a few years ago, when he was a dinner guest in our home. I knew he was in Denver to speak at the Western Conservative Summit, but I had no idea who he was. Intrigued after an enjoyable evening and some time together the following day, I bought a book that he had written, The Trials of Joseph, and begin to learn of an amazing and impactful influencer for good in our society.
Robert Woodson is a civil rights activist, community development leader, author. He is the founder of The Woodson Center (formerly the Center for Community Enterprise).
Mr. Woodson dropped out of high school to join the Air Force. While in the service he completed his GED. He later went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Cheyney University, a historically Black college near his hometown Philadelphia. He went on to obtain a master’s in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania, in 1965.
Mr. Woodson has been involved in the civil rights movement since 1962. In the years from 1962 to 1973, he worked for various organizations, including The Unitarian Services Committee, the NAACP, and the National Urban League. In 1974–1981 he worked for the American Enterprise Institute as director of the Neighborhood Revitalization Project in Washington, DC.
In 1981 Mr. Woodson founded the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, now the Woodson Center. Mr. Woodson is not impressed with the results of government programs to alleviate poverty. While the intentions of these programs are good, they have often resulted in great harm and lack of progress. Mr. Woodson’s method is to search out and identify families and programs (often in churches) that are thriving in difficult urban neighborhoods. He then interviews them to learn why they are having success. Finally, he connects these already successful programs with resourced individuals who can help these organizations and families expand their effectiveness.
In February 2020 The Woodson Center launched the 1776 Unites campaign, a collaboration of numerous Black conservatives, to counter the narrative of the New York Times 1619 Project. Mr. Woodson has called the 1619 Project’s thesis “one of the most diabolical, self-destructive ideas that I’ve ever heard.” His most recent book, a collection of essays by fellow black thinkers which Mr. Woodson edited, is titled Red, White and Black: Rescuing American History from Revisionists and Race Hustlers. In 2020 Mr. Woodson published another book titled Lessons from the Least of These: The Woodson Principles. I highly recommend both books for anyone who would like to learn from an effective community developer and organizer, who has received far less attention than he deserves.
Mr. Woodson, motivated by mission and a desire to impact his communities and our country for good, has remained vital and engaged well beyond Normal Retirement Age. In July 2021, at age 84 and on the 40th anniversary of the Woodson Center, he announced his retirement to President Emeritus and the succession of leadership of the organization.
To learn more about the Woodson Center, check out their website www.woodsoncenter.org
Are you working or actively volunteering past age 67? Do you know of someone who is? I would love to hear your story!