'The Negro Scientist': W.E.B. DuBois and the Diversity Problem in Science and the History of Science
Presented by Evelynn Hammonds of Harvard University
Wednesday, May 16th, 2018
Reception: 5:30 p.m.
Talk: 6:30 p.m.
American Center for Physics
1 Physics Elipse
College Park, MD 20740
In 1939, the great African American intellectual and scholar W.E.B. DuBois published an essay in the American Scholar entitled ‘The Negro Scientist’. DuBois wrote this essay in response to the statements made by a prominent white American scientist who had publicly noted how few African Americans had made their mark in science. The scientist had stated that ‘Negroes had made their mark in music, literature, and on the stage, in painting and in some departments of public life, but not often in the exact sciences’. DuBois’s answer to this question addresses some of the most vexed historical and contemporary issues concerning the persistent under-representation of native-born U.S. African Americans, Native Americans, and Latino Americans in the U.S. scientific and technical workforce from the early 20th century to the present.
This talk explores a number of questions with respect to the history of African Americans in U.S. science: why has the inclusion of African Americans into scientific and engineering communities in the U.S. been so difficult? What is it about the way scientists are educated in the U.S. that has led to the systematic under-representation and under-utilization of African Americans in scientific and technical fields? How is the under-representation of African Americans connected to the success of American science and technology? To say it differently, have some exclusions – like those of gender and race – been productive for the U.S. scientific and technical workforce? Why has the study of ‘race’ itself received so little attention in the history of science? And lastly, as Nancy Stepan and Sander Gilman asked over twenty years ago, why is it we know so little about the lived experiences of scientists of color and their responses to the claims made about them in the name of science?
Evelynn Hammonds is Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University, as well as Professor of African and African American Studies, and Director of the Project on Race and Gender in Science & Medicine, at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. She has published two books: The Nature of Difference: Sciences of Race in the United States from Jefferson to Genomics (MIT Press, 2008) and Childhood’s Deadly Scourge (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999).