Celebrate Black History Month!

It’s Black History Month! Learn more about some of the Black men and women who play pivotal roles in the conservation and environmental justice movements and continue to shape and guide the field.

Photo by Trust for Public Land

Rue Mapp founded Outdoor Afro in 2009 in Oakland, California. The nonprofit creates spaces for Black people to reconnect with nature, conservation, and outdoor activities like hiking, biking, fishing, and more. Today, the national nonprofit provides a variety of outdoor programming across the country through their volunteer leadership program. The organization also creates awareness campaigns around Juneteenth, Black History Month, and more. Outdoor Afro’s 2024 Black History Month Campaign focuses on scientist and inventor George Washington Carver. 

Photo from Tuskegee University Archives/Museum

George Washington Carver created hundreds of products using sweet potatoes, peanut butter, and soybeans. He was the first Black person to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree at Iowa State and was known for his innovative regenerative agriculture techniques and inventions. His studies of soil chemistry brought to light the need for crop rotation and the planting of nitrogen-fixing plants, such as peanuts, to replenish the soil. Known as “The Peanut Man”, Carver developed over 300 types of products from peanuts with a wide variety of applications.

Photo by Dave Brenner

Like Carver, Dr. Robert Bullard studied at Iowa State University. Dr. Bullard is known as the father of environmental justice. In 1979, he was the first person to study environmental racism using quantitative data in relation to the case Bean v. Southwestern Waste Management Inc. Since then, Dr. Bullard has written 18 books on this topic and has received many awards such as the John Muir Award, the 2020 Champions of the Earth Lifetime Achievement Award, and more. Today, Dr. Bullard is a distinguished professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University. Learn more about Dr. Bullard and his work here

Source: People for Community Recovery Archives, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature

Known as the mother of the environmental justice movement, Hazel Johnson began her work just a few years before Dr. Bullard in Chicago. After discovering how the landfill of her home community was negatively affecting the health of her neighbors, Johnson founded the People for Community Recovery. She was instrumental in getting President Clinton to sign the Environmental Justice Executive Order in 1994.

Photo by Angela Rzeszut

On a more local level, writer, activist, and hiker, Mardi Fuller, is the first Black person to have summited all 48 of New Hampshire’s highest peaks in the winter. Today, she is a community builder, speaker, and continues to be an avid hiker and backpacker in the Northeast. Follow her here.

There are so many Black folks who have had instrumental roles in our environment. Below are just a few more:

In addition to the organizations mentioned above, be sure to check out these organizations that promote Black connections to nature and the focus on racial justice in the environmental movement:

Follow the work of these organizations and the folks listed above and learn more about Black History Month here!