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Black American Environmentalists

Yesterday's Baltimore Sun ran an article about African Americans in the environmental movement. The author recites the numerous -- and important -- contributions of black Americans in ecological activism and environmental science. For example:

  • One of the two explorers who discovered the North Pole was a black man from Maryland named Matthew Henson.

  • The first backcountry park rangers in Yosemite and Sequioa national parks were members of the Buffalo Soldiers, the first all-black Army unit.

  • In 1971, a black man named John Francis embarked on a personal boycott of the oil industry by refusing, for 22 years, to either drive or ride in a motorized vehicle.

  • In 1973, a successful grassroots effort that forced Shell to reduce toxic air pollution by 30 percent was lead by a black woman named Margie Richard.

Nevertheless, "minorities only represent 16 percent of the environmental science workforce" and in 2010 only 2 percent of of Maryland State Park visitors were black.

Black Americans have started several initiatives such as Outdoor Afro and @BrownPeopleCamping to increase minority participation in conservation stewardship and ecological awareness.

Stay tuned for a future HoLLIE Continuing Education program on this topic.

Photo credit: US stamp art reproduced by The Smithsonian Institute.

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