Celebrating Black History Month

The progress made in clean energy would not be possible without the ingenuity and perseverance of Black Americans.

Guest Blog | February 24, 2023 | Clean Energy Generation, Energy Justice

This blog post was written by former SACE Digital Communications Coordinator, Heather Murphy.

In case you missed it, we’ve been celebrating Black History Month on our Facebook and Instagram channels by highlighting the stories of Black individuals – past and present – laying the groundwork for today’s Clean Energy Generation.

Below are just a few of the countless examples of Black Americans who have made a difference for us all.

Hazel O’Leary

Hazel O’Leary is no stranger to breaking glass ceilings. Ms. O’Leary served as the U.S. Secretary of Energy from 1993 to 1997 – the first woman and first Black citizen to hold the position. As Secretary of Energy, she championed energy efficiency and renewable energy. O’Leary requested funding for clean energy research and formed partnerships with nonprofits and manufacturers. She helped drive the commercialization of energy-efficient appliances. Many clean energy successes can be traced back to Hazel O’Leary’s advocacy for clean energy within the U.S. Department of Energy.

Van Jones

In 2008, Van Jones wrote, “The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems.” In it, Jones outlined a plan to save the earth while creating millions of good-paying jobs for working-class Americans. It was the first environmental book by an African American to make the New York Times bestseller list.

Jones later founded the nonprofit Dream.Org: Green For All, a program ensuring that all communities enjoy the good jobs, better health, and increased opportunity brought by the green economy.

Lisa P. Jackson

Lisa P. Jackson is an advocate for the environment and a leader in sustainability.

Ms. Jackson joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a chemical engineer in 1987. In 2009, she became Administrator of the EPA, the first Black person to hold the position. Under her leadership, the EPA developed stricter fuel efficiency standards, recognized carbon emissions as a public health threat, proposed stricter smog pollution limits, and more. She now serves as Vice President of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives at Apple. Jackson is a recognized leader in business and sustainability, and her work has made a difference in countless lives.

Dr. Robert Bullard

Dr. Robert Bullard is one of the world’s foremost experts on environmental justice.

He is the author of 18 books that address environmental and climate racism. His book, “Dumping on Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality,” was the first to introduce readers to the field of environmental justice. Though rejected by publishers a dozen times because, he was told, the words “environment” and “racism” didn’t belong together, it has since been cited more than 5,600 times in scholarly articles.

Newsweek named Dr. Bullard one of the 13 Environmental Leaders of the Century. He is the founding director of the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice at Texas Southern University. And in 2021, he was named to the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council.

Jessica O. Matthews

Jessica O. Matthews started young in the field of clean energy. She was 19 and a student at Harvard when she saw a need in parts of the world with limited access to electricity. That’s when she invented an energy-generating soccer ball. The energy generated by play was harnessed and stored in the ball for later use as a portable energy source.

Jessica’s work in sustainable energy didn’t stop there. She is the founder and CEO of Uncharted, a company on a mission to raise the standard of living for everyone. It creates solutions to improve sustainable energy, water, air, transit, and connectivity infrastructure.

Follow Along

Although February is on the calendar to celebrate Black history, the histories, stories, and voices of Black people should be uplifted continually. Join us on our social media channels as we continue to highlight the contributions of Black individuals to the clean energy sector.

An inclusive, equitable, and diverse Clean Energy Generation is essential to tackle today’s climate and energy challenges.

Do you know an innovator, leader, or worker in the clean energy field? We’d love to hear their stories! Send us an email at [email protected].

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