Black history is rich with connections to the natural environment, from the sustainable maroon communities that sprang up in the Carolinas and Florida, to the Great Migration and search for nature near urban spaces, to the modern environmental justice movement for clean land, air and water for all. This Black History Month, we’re celebrating the contributions of history-makers who’ve revolutionized environmental fields.
In 1991, the Jamaican-born sociologist Dorceta Taylor became the first Black woman to receive a doctoral degree from Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. In 2014, Taylor authored the most comprehensive study of gender, racial and class diversity within the environmental movement, “The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations,” which found a serious lag in the progress of racial diversity within environmental institution and that men are still more likely than women to hold executive positions. Today, Taylor is a professor and director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability.