Celebrate Black History Month

What we now call Black History Month originated in 1926, founded by Carter G Woodson as Negro History Week. The month of February was selected in deference to Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln who were both born in that month.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson is the father of Black History Month. The son of a slave, Carter G Woodson was born in New Canton, Virginia on December 19, 1875. He began high school at the age of 20 and then proceeded to study at Berea College, the University of Chicago, the Sorbonne, and Harvard University, where he earned a Ph.D. in 1912.

Carter G Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915 to train Black historians and to collect, preserve, and publish documents on Black life and Black people. He also founded the Journal of Negro History (1916), Associated Publishers (1922), and the Negro Bulletin (1937). Woodson spent his life working to educate all people about the vast contributions made by Black men and women throughout history. Mr. Woodson died on April 3, 1950 and Black History Month is his legacy.

Notable African Americans in Environmental Protection

Dr. Robert Bullard is the Dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas. He is often described as the father of environmental justiceProfessor Bullard received his Ph.D. degree from Iowa State University. He is the author of seventeen books that address sustainable development, environmental racism, urban land use, industrial facility siting, community reinvestment, housing, transportation, climate justice, emergency response, smart growth, and regional equity. Professor Bullard was featured in the July 2007 CNN People You Should Know, Bullard: Green Issue is Black and White. In 2008, Newsweek named him one of 13 Environmental Leaders of the Century. And that same year, Co-op America honored him with its Building Economic Alternatives Award (BEA). In 2010, The Grio named him one of the "100 Black History Makers in the Making" and Planet Harmony named him one of Ten African American Green Heroes. " And in 2012, he was featured in Welcomebooks Everyday Heroes: 50 Americans Changing the World One Nonprofit at a Time by Katrina Fried.

His book, Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality (Westview Press, 2000), is a standard text in the environmental justice field. His most recent books include Just Sustainabilities: Development in an Unequal World(MIT Press, 2003), Highway Robbery: Transportation Racism and New Routes to Equity (South End Press, 2004), The Quest for Environmental Justice: Human Rights and the Politics of Pollution (Sierra Club Books, 2005), Growing Smarter: Achieving Livable Communities, Environmental Justice, and Regional Equity (MIT Press, 2007), and The Black Metropolis in the Twenty-First Century: Race, Power, and the Politics of Place (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007). Dr. Bullard is co-author of In the Wake of the Storm: Environment, Disaster and Race After Katrina (Russell Sage Foundation, 2006) and Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty: 1987-2007 (United Church of Christ Witness & Justice Ministries, 2007). His latest books include Race, Place and Environmental Justice After Hurricane Katrina: Struggles to Reclaim, Rebuild, and Revitalize New Orleans and the Gulf Coast (Westview Press, 2009) and Environmental Health and Racial Equality in the United States: Strategies for Building Just, Sustainable and Livable Communities (American Public Health Association Press, 2011). He is completing a new book project, The Wrong Complexion for Protection: How the Government Response to Disaster Endangers African American Communities(New York University Press, 2012).

Hazel Johnson (1935-2011) and her daughter Cheryl Johnson together founded People for Community Recovery (PCR) was founded in June 1979 and was incorporated on October 25, 1982. It mission, to press for serious and long overdue repair work in Altgeld Gardens, a Chicago Housing Authority development located on the South Side of Chicago.

PCR soon turned its attention to the more serious problems of urban environmental pollution when it was discovered that the Southeast side of Chicago had the highest incidence of cancer of any area in the city.

PCR's founder and CEO, Hazel Johnson, made numerous calls around the country to educate herself regarding the cancer rate in her own community. Later she connected with city and state health departments to investigate reports on environmental problems surrounding Altgeld Gardens as well as information regarding industrial pollution.

Ms. Johnson dedicated years learning about urban environmental issues and networking with other environmental groups. After conducting her research, she learned that many waste disposal companies surrounded Altgeld Gardens as well as manufacturing companies that produced and emitted thousands of pounds of pollutants into the air, water and land. PCR found that due to the heavy concentration of industry, low income residential communities on the Southeast side of Chicago were being exposed to substantial amounts of toxic chemicals that could be responsible for negative health impacts.

With these facts in mind, PCR along with other residents from Altgeld Gardens began to address the environmental problems within their community. For the past two decades, PCR has been applying pressure on "corporate polluters" and government officials to make them aware of their negligence. It is PCR's goal to make both corporations and the government accountable to the communities in which they operate.

Concurrently, PCR has continually been educating itself and the community about urban environmental issues and their relationship to industry. Through extensive research and partnerships, PCR has found a significant correlation among various industrial processes – the byproducts of which pollute the air, land and water – and the health status of urban minority communities. With perseverance, tenacity and dedication, PCR continues to be a positive force not only within the Altgeld Gardens community, but within the Environmental Justice movement at large.

Naomi Davis of Blacks In Green (BIG), based in Chicago, Illinois, is a community education and trade association working in the new green economy to help link, leverage, and lead health and wealth benefits to communities of color, both here in the United States and abroad. BIG is a network of individuals, non-profits, businesses, agencies, and coalitions – a global green practices collective – committed to robust African diaspora participation in the age of social, economic and environmental accountability and responsibility.

While BIG's "green" initiatives span a plethora of sectors, their two key initiatives include the creation of BIG Villages and the Green Hubs in the 'Hood' Initiative. BIG Villages are naturally efficient incubators for applying the spectrum of green technologies while BIG Hubs are their natural epicenters for advocacy, training and partnerships for green collar jobs, careers and enterprise.

Naomi Davis, above left, is the founder and president of BIG. Ms. Davis is a Chicago attorney who consults with the Chicago Department of the Environment on climate change and recycling. She works on the new peer-reviewed journal Environmental Justice. She hosts (and produces) Chicago's first and only green-themed talk show on public access TV. Davis also runs a green economics consultancy called Daughter's Trust, and her long-term goal is to convert 1,000 blighted acres on the Far South Side into a mixed-income eco-development.

Van Jones is president and co-founder of Rebuild the Dream, a platform for bottom-up, people-powered innovations to help fix the U.S. economy.

A Yale-educated attorney, Van has written two New York Times Best Sellers: The Green Collar Economy, the definitive book on green jobs, and Rebuild the Dream, a roadmap for progressives in 2012 and beyond. Van is currently a CNN Contributor.

In 2009, Van worked as the green jobs advisor to the Obama White House. There, he helped run the inter-agency process that oversaw $80 billion in green energy recovery spending. Among his awards and honors:

  • One of TIME Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2009
  • Recipient of the NAACP's Image Award
  • Rolling Stones' 12 Leaders Who Get Things Done in 2012
  • One of Essence Magazine's 25 Most Inspiring African Americans in 2008
  • One of Ebony Magazine's 2011 Power 150
  • One of Fast Company's 12 Most Creative Minds on Earth
  • Visiting Fellow in Collaborative Economics at Presidio Graduate School
  • Member of the international Ashoka Fellowship
  • A 2005 World Economic Forum "Young Global Leader"
  • Former distinguished visiting professor at Princeton University
  • Former Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and American Progress Action Fund

Van is the founder of Green For All, a national organization working to get green jobs to disadvantaged communities. He was the main advocate for the Green Jobs Act; signed into law by George W. Bush in 2007, the Act was the first piece of federal legislation to codify the term "green jobs. " Under the Obama administration, it has resulted in $500 million for green job training nationally.

While best known as a pioneer in the environmental movement, Van has been hard at work in social justice for nearly two decades, fashioning solutions to some of urban America's toughest problems. He is the co-founder of two social justice organizations: the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Color of Change.

Van is on the board of several organizations and non-profits, including: National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), Presidio, Center for America's Future and Demos.

Benjamin Chavis is an African-American Civil Rights Leader. In his earlier years Dr. Chavis was an assistant to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. , who inspired him to work in the civil rights movement. In 1969, he was chosen as the Southern Regional Program Director of the 1.7 million member United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice. In 1985, he was named the Executive Director and CEO of the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice.

In 1981 Benjamin Chavis was the first one to coin the term environmental racism: "Racial discrimination in the deliberated targeting of ethnic and minority communities for exposure to toxic and hazardous waste sites and facilities, coupled with the systematic exclusion of minorities in environmental policy making, enforcement, and remediation." In 1986 the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice conducted and published the landmark national study: Toxic Waste and Race in the United States of America. This study statistically revealed the direct correlation between race and the location of toxic waste throughout the United States.

In 1993, Benjamin Chavis became the youngest Executive Director and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The NAACP organized Branches to speak out on environmental racism and advocated for reform of the Superfund legislation.

Marjora Carter is an urban revitalization strategist from the South Bronx area of New York City. She founded the non-profit environmental justice solutions corporation Sustainable South Bronx. During her time at Sustainable South Bronx she advocated the development of the Hunt's Point Riverside Park that had been an illegal garbage dump.

In 2003, Sustainable South Bronx started the Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training program. This was one of the nation's first urban green collar training and placement programs. Majora Carter is also co-founder of Green For All with Van Jones. Among her honors and awards:

  • 2009 Honor Award: Visionary in Sustainability, by the National Building Museum
  • 2008 Named a "visionary" as one of Utne Reader magazine's "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing the World. "
  • 2008 Appointed to America's Climate Choices: Panel on Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change: National Academy of Sciences
  • 2008 Liberty Medal for Lifetime Achievement: The New York Post
  • 2008 The Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal: Eleanor Roosevelt Society
  • 2007 Rachel Carson Award: National Audubon Society

After leaving Sustainable South Bronx, Carter has served as president of a private consulting firm, Majora Carter Group, LLC. In the June 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine, Majora Carter was listed as one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business.

John Francis is an American environmentalist nicknamed the planetwalker. After witnessing the devastation caused by the 1971 San Francisco Bay oil spill, he stopped riding in motorized vehicles from 1972 until 1994. From 1973 until 1990, he also spent 17 years voluntarily silent. While he was silent, he completed three college degrees, culminating in a Ph.D. in Land Management from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. John Francis traveled extensively, walking across the entire width of the lower 48 states of the USA as well as walking to South America.

Francis has been employed by the United States Coast Guard to work on legislation relating to management of oil spills. In 1991 he was named a United Nations Environmental Program Goodwill ambassador. He is the author of Planetwalker: How to Change Your World One Step at a Time.

Audrey Peterman and Frank Peterman are leading experts on America's publicly owned lands system. With their last child graduating from college, Audrey and Frank Peterman embarked on a road trip around the country. Traveling 12,000 miles across 40 states from Florida to Washington State, they witnessed stunning natural beauty, history and culture protected in our National Parks and forests. During their travels they saw less than a handful of Americans of Hispanic, Asian, African or Native American heritage enjoying the Great American outdoors, or working in them. Recognizing that this problem stemmed from a lack of information and latent fears about being in the woods, the Petermans committed to become a catalyst for change.

Since then, they've visited 156 national parks, numerous forests and wildlife preserves, and personally taken thousands of Americans on tours of the national parks. Among their honors and awards:

  • "The Environmental Hero" 2000 Award from Vice President Al Gore and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Award for "Outstanding Citizen Advocacy on Behalf of the National Parks," 1997
  • The Everglades Coalition's "George Barley Leadership Award"

In 1994 Audrey and Frank Peterman started Earthwise Productions Inc., a consulting and publishing company that tailors strategic approaches to assist government agencies, nonprofits and corporations to engage a more diverse section of the population in the enjoyment and stewardship of our publicly owned lands. Audrey Peterman has written two books: Legacy on the Land, which shows that Americans of every race have contributed to the protection of our public lands and Our True Nature, the first travel guide to the national parks written by an African American woman.