By Shelly Silva
During Black History Month, we celebrate several Black individuals who helped shape our understanding of plants and science, remembering how historically Black people have not received the recognition they deserve for their contributions.
Take a few minutes to learn about these notable individuals who helped pave the way within the conservation, horticulture, and nonprofit space. The world is a better place when we all work together to celebrate, appreciate, and learn about the pillars of our industries and community.
- Solomon Brown: (c.1829–1906) The first African American employee at the Smithsonian Institution, Solomon Brown dedicated 54 years of work to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. He started out as a general laborer at the Smithsonian and eventually worked in many positions at the institute including giving lectures and educating others on natural history, illustrating maps and specimens, and writing poetry. Completely self-taught within these fields, “Professor Brown” was well-respected within the museum community and also the African American community in Anacostia, D.C., where he had a passion for providing educational opportunities through church organizations and civic groups. Learn more about Brown’s story here.
- Colonel Charles Young: (c.1864-1922) Colonel Charles Young was the first African American to become a superintendent of a National Park while serving as a Captain of an all-Black regiment. He was asked to take his troops to Sequoia and General Grant National Parks, what is now considered Sequoia National Park, and a small portion of Kings Canyon National Park. Some of the work he accomplished while superintendent included stopping the poaching of wildlife, illegal logging, and sheep grazing. He also managed a team to work on the road infrastructure of these new parks and did so successfully that some of the roads constructed under his command are still used today. Additionally, he established the idea that it was critical to both the parks and private landowners to settle contentious property rights issues, paving a foundation for later land acquisition. Learn more about Colonel Young’s story here.
- Rue Mapp is the CEO and founder of Outdoor Afro, the nation’s leading, cutting-edge network that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. With more than 100 leaders in 56 cities around the country, Mapp’s life work has connected thousands of people to nature experiences, who are changing the face of conservation. Mapp received a National Wildlife Federation Communication award, is a member of the California State Parks Commission, and is a National Geographic fellow. Her work and passion for the outdoors has inspired a new generation of conservation-minded people who are dedicated to helping the environment through these actions. Learn more about Rue and Outdoor Afro here and join the Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Delaware Chapter of Outdoor Afro here.
- David Greaves is a wildlife photographer, biologist, Mt. Cuba Center instructor, and remedial project manager for the federal Environmental Protection Agency based out of Newark, Delaware. He is also the founder of his brand, Nature Under Your Nose, which reconnects minorities and people of color to nature on a local and global scale. Through nature photography and videography, he creates environmental awareness and brings to life the beauty of nature that is often overlooked in our daily lives. Learn more about David’s upcoming nature photography class at Mt. Cuba here and follow his work with Nature Under Your Nose here.