NSights Blog

Black History Month: Sharing the stories of those who have paved the way

Diversity and multiculturalism should be woven into all areas of the college experience, and this includes bringing to light some black scientists who mad major contributions to their fields.

February as Black History Month offers a unique opportunity to reflect on the achievements and contributions of African Americans that, shrouded by bias and discrimination, didn't make it into the history books. As director of Advising, Recruitment and Retention for the College of Science, as well as a professor of African American history, I believe diversity and multiculturalism should be woven into all areas of the college experience for our students, and that means bringing to light the vast history of black scientists and their discoveries that have paved the way for future research.

Had Dr. Charles Henry Turner, born in 1867 to newly freed slaves, not conducted his groundbreaking research on honeybee communication and navigation, would the University's Leonard Lab be conducting research into the floral signal complexity of honeybees? Physicist Elmer Imes provided one of the earliest tests of quantum theory. Had he not persevered despite extreme discrimination and segregation to become the first African American to publish research in 1919, would we be welcoming world-renowned theoretical physicist S. James Gates Junior to speak at the College of Science Discover Science Lecture in March?

One of the most powerful things we can do as education professionals is to tell these stories. At the College of Science, 45 percent of our student population identify as non-white, and 22 percent identify as black or multi-ethnic. These are the students that can and will make the history books as researchers, scientists, mathematicians and inventors. Let's take this month to share with them the stories of those who paved the way.

Blane Harding