Honoring Black Environmentalists


This February, we're celebrating Black History Month by focusing on the past and present, and celebrating Black environmentalists who are leading the way in environmental justice research and advocacy. 

These leaders understand that the fight against climate change starts in the black communities who are disproportionately affected by it, and they are working to create a more equitable, just, and sustainable world for everyone to live in. Read on to learn more about some of the Black Environmental Pioneers who have made–and are making–a difference in our lives today.

Dr. Beverly Wright

An Environmental Justice Scholar & Advocate

Wright is the founder and Executive Director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. DSCEJ investigates the impacts of environmental inequality in the Lower Mississipi River Industrial Center. This area is so polluted that it’s now known as "Cancer Alley." Wright’s research looks at population and demographic data within Toxics Release Inventory reports. Her research shows the direct correlation between race and pollution. In fact, Wright has proven that nearly 80% of African Americans live in polluted neighborhoods.

Rue Mapp

Founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro

Mapp is the founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reconnecting African Americans with natural spaces through outdoor activities. Outdoor Afro began as a blog in 2009, and has grown into a recognized nonprofit with networks in 30 states and over 40,000 participants. Her book, Nature Swagger, highlights Black joy in nature through portraits and personal essays. Mapp was part of the team that informed Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative, was program officer for the Stewardship Council’s Foundation for Youth Investment, and has been recognized with many awards and distinctions, including The Root 100 for being one of the most influential African Americans in the country.

George Washington Carver

Agricultural Scientist and Inventor

Carver was one of the most prominent inventors of the early 20th century. He developed hundreds of products derived from peanuts, soybeans, and sweet potatoes. His agricultural advancements helped improve the lives of poor Black farmers by promoting alternative crops to cotton and methods to prevent soil depletion. He went on to teach and conduct research at Tuskegee University. Carver’s work revolutionized the agricultural economy of the south.

Solomon G. Brown

Author and First African American Employee at the Smithsonian

Brown was the first African American employee at the Smithsonian, serving for 54 years from 1852-1906. He played a significant role in the implementation of the first electric telegraph and was well-versed in the study of natural history. Brown was also a poet, lecturer, and activist who volunteered in civic programs to help the African American community.