Black History Month: Environmental Scientist Features

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Black History Month: Environmental Scientist Features

UC Davis EHSC Celebrates Black History Month

February is Black History Month and we would like to feature a few of the Black and African-American scientists and researchers who have propelled the field of Environmental Health Sciences forward. 

Environmental Scientist Features:


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Dr. Beverly Wright

First up, we have Dr. Beverly Wright. Dr. Wright founded and leads the first-ever US environmental justice center, the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. The center focuses on addressing environmental and health inequities. For decades, she has been a global leader on climate issues. More recently, she joined the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Committee, where she advises the Biden administration on how to address current environmental issues. 


Learn more about Dr. Wright


Dr. Robert Bullard

Dr. Robert Bullard has been referred to as the “father of environmental justice” for his outstanding work in the environmental sciences field. His work addresses environmental racism, urban land use, community reinvestment, housing, transportation, climate justice, disasters, and community resilience. In addition to Dr. Wright, Dr. Bullard also serves on the Biden administration's White House Environmental Justice Advisory Committee. We also thank Dr. Bullard for his service in the US Marine Corps.  

Learn more about Dr. Bullard


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Marjorie Richard

Marjorie Richard was the first African-American woman to win the Goldman Environmental Prize. She has been recognized for her commitment to improving air quality and holding large companies accountable, receiving the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2004. She founded an organization to lead the battle against Shell Oil’s disposal of petrochemical byproducts getting them to relocate residents harmed by toxic exposures. 

Learn more about Marjorie Richard


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Hattie Carthan

Hattie Carthan, most commonly known as the Tree Lady of Brooklyn, was an environmentalist and community activist during her life. She was known for advocating for planting and protecting trees to address economic development and neighborhood livability issues. She found that simply by planting trees, the attitudes around neighborhoods shifted. She continues to be remembered for her commitment to solving environmental concerns and bringing her community together through urban nature.  

Visit the Hattie Carthan Community Garden


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Dr. Wangari Maathai

Dr. Wangari Maathai was a Kenyan scholar and internationally recognized environmental rights activist. In 1977, Dr. Maathai introduced the Green Belt Movement centered around the idea of planting trees to help conserve the environment. Today, Dr. Maathai’s organization hires local women’s groups to plant trees to both improve the environment and provide jobs. To date, this project led to the planting of over 50 million trees. Dr. Maathai was also the first African Woman to win the Noble Peace Prize in 2004 for her contribution to sustainable agriculture, democracy, and peace.

Visit the Green Belt Movement Website


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George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver was a botanist, scientist, and teacher born into slavery in 1864. His work focused on developing methods to remedy soil depletion caused by cotton farming. He promoted the importance of crop rotation for soil health, becoming widely known for his expertise on the uses of peanuts, sweet potatoes, soybeans, and pecans, as well as for his dedication to alleviating farmers’ poverty. The George Washington Carver National Monument in Missouri was the first national monument to honor a non-president and the first monument dedicated to a Black American. 

Learn more about George Washington Carver


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Hazel Johnson

Hazel Johnson was known as the “mother of the environmental justice movement.” After discovering that high cancer rates were linked to environmental causes, Johnson fought to improve living conditions. Johnson founded the People for Community Recovery organization, which is committed to supporting environmental change in communities and neighborhoods. 


Visit People for Community Recovery


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W.E.B. Du Bois

W.E.B. Du Bois was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard and one of the foremost scientists of his era. Using archival records, census data, interviews, and first-hand observations, DuBois examined the social conditions that shaped the health outcomes of Black residents in Philadelphia.  Increasingly, DuBois is recognized as a founding figure of social epidemiology and research on health disparities and environmental justice. 


Learn More about Dr. Du Bois

Angelina Angelo (Staff Image)


Angelina is an EHSC editorial assistant for the communications department and an undergraduate student at UC Davis studying Human Development. She is an aspiring writer with a focus on science communication.