When astronaut Mae Jemison saw actress Nichelle Nichols portray Lt. Uhura on Star Trek, her life was changed forever. Seeing an African-American role model helped steer Jemison toward a goal – she was determined to join NASA and become an astronaut. Years later, Jemison achieved her goal when she made history as the first African-American woman to go into space with the U.S. space program.
Jemison’s accomplishment had positive ripple effects, and now she is cited as a source of inspiration for so many African-American students who are themselves reaching for the stars, but Jemison is not alone. There are many African-American physical scientists, such as Jedidah Isler, Hakeem Oluseyi, Chandra Precod-Weinstein, Sylvester James Gates, Tabbetha Dobbins, JC Holbrook and so many others, who are doing important scientific work and also influencing countless students.
That’s why the American Institute of Physics is so proud to celebrate Black History Month. Visibility and representation matter, and one small act – such as seeing a role model achieve success – can have lasting effects on a person’s future.
“Black History Month is an annual opportunity to reflect on the trajectory of our scientific community in terms of diversity and plan for the future,” said AIP CEO Michael Moloney.
During February, AIP is committing itself to highlighting resources and materials that celebrate the accomplishments of African-American scientists. We want to elevate their experiences, and we hope to inform and inspire in the process. Be sure to follow our social channels @AIP_TEAMUP, @Michael_AIP, @AIPHistory, @SPSNational, @AIPStatistics, @PhysicsToday, @InsideScience, and #BlackHistoryAIP this month, and feel free to join in on the conversation.
In honor of Black History Month, we have gathered some AIP resources featuring African American scientists at all levels, from undergraduate students to working professionals to historical figures whose contributions to science and humanity are worthy of celebration.
The AIP National Task Force to Elevate African American Representation in Undergraduate Physics & Astronomy (TEAM-UP)
The AIP TEAM-UP Task Force is investigating the reasons for the persistent underrepresentation of African American undergraduate students in physics and astronomy.
Images and Library Resources
Resources from the Society of Physics Students
Resources from AIP Statistical Research Center
News & Media Services
Photo credit: (L-R) Frederick Gaskins, George Carruthers, Hattie Carwell, James Mayo, James Stith, Ronald Mickens, Mercedes Richards, and Sylvester James Gates. Courtesy the Emilio Segrè Visual Archives.