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Celebrating and learning together during Black History Month

February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate and recognize the achievements of African Americans throughout history. While there are many Black environmentalists responsible for historic progress for people and planet, these individuals are not recognized as often or as widely as other well-known environmentalists throughout history.

While it would not be possible to list everyone, below are five of many Black environmentalists - past and present - who we gratefully honor for dedicating their lives and careers to promote policies and practices to protect and support the natural environment:

  • Robert Bullard, author and environmental leader known as the Father of Environmental Justice

  • George Washington Carver, (1864-1943), the first African American to earn a Bachelor of Science degree (1894), whose research revealed that nutrient-depleted cotton fields could be restored by planting crops such as peanuts, soybeans, and sweet potatoes. This method of rotating crops made it possible for poor farmers to climb out of debt and poverty.

  • John Francis, environmentalist, author, known as "Planetwalker" for walking the planet for 22 years while teaching environmental protection

  • Wangari Maathai, (1940-2011), author, activist, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and founder of the Green Belt Movement, an environmental organization that empowers communities and women especially to conserve the environment and improve livelihoods

  • Rue Mapp, founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro, a national not-for-profit that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature.

ClearWater's board and staff are encouraged to read the book Black Faces, White Spaces by Carolyn Finney during Black History Month, and invite you to join us. In the book, Finney looks to U.S. history and environmental science to understand and attempt to answer the question, "Why are African Americans so underrepresented when it comes to interest in nature, outdoor recreation, and environmentalism?" We welcome your insight and feedback on Black Faces, White Spaces via email:

ClearWater Conservancy continually strives to be more aware of the barriers to and solutions for engaging a more diverse community of individuals throughout all aspects of the organization. From Centred Outdoors to diversifying leadership roles, we are looking inward and to our community to foster an authentic sense of inclusion and belonging in all that we do.


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