Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Commemorating African American Achievement in Science

What follows is a brief listing of web sites and guides to commemorate the contributions of African Americans in Science, Technology and Medicine.  It is appropriate to take a wide view of African American achievement during Black History/African American History Month, and there are many sources that do just that, beginning with the
Association for the Study of African American Life and History and the Library of Congress.

My intent is a narrower focus, superbly presented by Kenneth R. Manning in a number of essays on African American scientists.  Manning, Thomas Meloy Professor of Rhetoric (Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies and STS), MIT, Cambridge, is the author of Black Apollo: the life of Ernest Everett Just.

His keynote address, Reflections on E. E. Just, Black Apollo of Science, and the Experience of African American Scientists, given at the symposium honoring E. E. Just held on the campus of Howard University, November 21, 2008, was transcribed and published in Molecular Reproduction and Development 76 (2009): 897-902.

A more general essay by Manning is accessible from OBIS: African Americans in Science, offered in the Black Studies Center archived by ProQuest.

Other resources include:
African Americans in Science / Charles Carey (online encyclopedia from ABC/Clio)
Science Update - Spotlight: African American Scientists (from AAAS)
The Faces of Sciences: African Americans in Science

Finally, C&EN published a report in 2007 on Chemists of Color that stated many of the same sentiments expressed by Kenneth Manning.  Specifically, diversity in academia will not reflect the general population until all members of the academy work together to support scientists of color beyond the interview and hiring stage.  Critical decisions over tenure, promotion, funding, and hiring of graduate assistants all directly impact success and retention.

In Manning's words, at the conclusion of his keynote address:
"We have an opportunity now to get into another gear, to begin to aggressively try and nurture people who have not been part of the enterprise. 

"We have to recognize our roles as gatekeepers, as people who evaluate, and realize that evaluations do have meaning and message.  We should be as sensitive and wise as we can.  If we do that, I think the legacy of Just will carry on and our scientific enterprise will have the diversity that we want and deserve."

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