Honoring the Remarkable Contributions of Black Leaders in Renewable Energy
February 1, 2023
As we celebrate Black History Month, we are pleased to recognize the extraordinary contributions of Black leaders in renewable energy. A growing number of African Americans have been making their mark in renewable energy. Their leadership and dedication to environmental sustainability and social justice are a source of inspiration and hope. in this context, we would like to honor some of the pioneers whose legacy continues to affirm their historical significance and the impact they have made on future generations.
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Dr. Percy Julian - Chemist and Innovator
As one of the most influential Black Leaders in Renewable Energy, Dr. Percy Julian is known for his innovative contributions to the development of renewable and sustainable energy sources. A chemist and innovator, Dr. Julian was a pioneer in the field of synthetic hormones and is credited with the development of drugs to treat a variety of illnesses including glaucoma and arthritis. He also researched a variety of plant-based sources and pioneered advances in renewable energy.
Julian’s work helped increase access to renewable energy sources and open new avenues for research into sustainability. His work also enabled a wider range of individuals and groups to benefit from renewable energy sources. By making renewable energy more accessible, Dr. Julian’s work has enabled countless individuals and communities to reduce their reliance on non-renewable energy sources and move closer towards a more sustainable future.
Dr. Julian’s life was marked by both successes and obstacles, yet he never ceased to use his unique perspective to make a lasting impact in the world of renewable energy. In recognition of Black History Month, we must remember the invaluable contributions that Dr. Percy Julian made to renewable energy and sustainability.
George Washington Carver - Agricultural Scientist
As one of the most renowned Black leaders in renewable energy, George Washington Carver was an agricultural scientist who developed new and sustainable ways for farmers to use the land. He devoted much of his life to the promotion of renewable farming practices, such as crop rotation and composting.
Carver is best known for his discoveries concerning the use of peanuts, sweet potatoes, and other crops as a source of food, oil, and medicine. In addition, Carver also created hundreds of products made from these crops, such as cheese, flour, dyes, soap, paint, and even fuel.
His commitment to renewable energy and sustainability had a lasting impact on American agriculture and paved the way for future generations of Black leaders in renewable energy.
Sarah E. Goode - Businesswoman and Inventor
Sarah E. Goode was an African American inventor and businesswoman. She was born into slavery in 1855 and became a successful entrepreneur after the Civil War. Goode’s most famous invention was the folding cabinet bed, which was designed to save space in her furniture store. Goode was granted a patent for her invention on July 14, 1885, making her the first African American woman to ever receive a United States patent.
Goode’s invention was an example of renewable and sustainable design that helped to make a positive contribution to the world of renewable energy. Her ingenuity not only saved space in the furniture store but also gave customers more options when it came to purchasing furniture that could be folded away to conserve energy.
Goode is a powerful example of Black leaders in renewable energy, her innovation continues to inspire people to this day.
Granville T. Woods - Inventor and Engineer
Granville T. Woods was an African American inventor and engineer who made great strides in renewable energy, sustainability, and the electrification of America. He held more than 50 patents for inventions related to electric railway technology and became one of the first Black Leaders in Renewable Energy.
Woods’ career as an inventor began in 1872 when he obtained a job as an engineer for the Ohio and Mississippi Railway. He worked on a variety of projects related to electricity and renewable energy, including an electric railway system, electrical motors, and improved telegraphs. In 1884, Woods created a device that combined several elements of telegraphy and telephony, which he called the “induction telegraph”. It was the first of its kind and paved the way for widespread telephone use.
The induction telegraph was the foundation for Woods’ most important invention: the third rail. This device allowed electric power to be transmitted through a third rail that ran alongside the tracks of an electric railway system. His invention revolutionized the industry by making it possible to generate electricity without burning coal, thus reducing emissions and making renewable energy more accessible.
Woods was also a champion of sustainability and conservation efforts. He founded the Woods Electrical Power Company in 1886, which was devoted to researching and developing ways to make renewable energy sources more affordable and efficient. He even created a device that could convert heat from burning coal into electricity, allowing energy to be produced from non-renewable sources more efficiently.
Granville T. Woods’ contributions to renewable energy and sustainability cannot be overstated. His inventions laid the groundwork for the electrification of America and opened the door for more widespread use of renewable energy sources. He is truly a pioneer in renewable energy and we should continue to honor his legacy by striving for greater sustainability in our world today.
Benjamin Banneker - Astronomer, Mathematician, and Surveyor
Benjamin Banneker was a self-taught mathematician, astronomer, surveyor, and clockmaker who lived in the late 1700s. His extraordinary mathematical and scientific skills made him a true pioneer of his time. Despite the challenges posed by slavery and the limited access to formal education, Banneker accomplished many incredible things.
Banneker was born on a Maryland plantation in 1731 and was freed from slavery at the age of 21. In addition to becoming a successful farmer, he studied astronomy, mathematics, and surveying, making numerous important contributions to these fields. He developed almanacs for predicting astronomical events, set up a rudimentary observatory with crude instruments, and completed surveys that helped establish the boundaries of the new nation of the United States. He even wrote letters to Thomas Jefferson, then the U.S. Secretary of State, pleading for an end to the institution of slavery.
Banneker was one of the few African-Americans of his time to be actively engaged in scientific activities related to renewable energy and sustainability. Through his writings and public lectures he advocated for renewable and sustainable practices as a means of living in harmony with nature. He believed that society could only progress if it embraced such practices. Banneker’s vision of a more equitable and sustainable future laid the groundwork for many of today’s Black Leaders in Renewable Energy. His legacy lives on in the work of those who strive for equity and sustainability.
Lorraine Hansberry - Playwright and Civil Rights Activist
Lorraine Hansberry was a celebrated playwright, author, and social activist whose work made a lasting contribution to civil rights and renewable energy. As a Black leader in renewable energy, she championed the need for sustainable solutions to global issues. She was an advocate for the advancement of renewable energy, sustainability, and environmental justice.
Born in Chicago, Illinois in 1930, Lorraine Hansberry was the youngest of four children. Her writing career began early when she became editor of the school paper and wrote poetry. She attended college at the University of Wisconsin but left without graduating.
In 1959, Hansberry wrote the critically acclaimed play A Raisin in the Sun, which was the first Broadway production written by a Black woman. This play launched her career as one of the most respected and popular American dramatists of the 20th century. She was also deeply engaged in civil rights issues throughout her career, and wrote frequently on racism, poverty, and women’s rights.
Hansberry was passionate about renewable energy and sustainability, and she actively advocated for policy change related to environmental issues. In 1965, she organized a group of New York City activists who helped create the Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam. This committee successfully pushed for an end to the war, highlighting the need to invest in renewable energy and sustainable solutions instead of destructive warfare.
Through her activism and writings, Lorraine Hansberry helped shape the future of renewable energy and sustainability. Her legacy is an important reminder of the importance of including Black leaders in renewable energy efforts. In honor of Black History Month, let us celebrate Lorraine Hansberry and all the Black leaders in renewable energy who have made powerful contributions to our society.