February is African American History Month. During this month, we frequently receive questions from students working on school projects related to African Americans in science and business. In general, students seek biographical information about a specific black scientist, inventor or business person.
Before my time, back in the 1980’s, LC science librarian Vivian Ovelton Sammons had several students come into the Science and Business Reading Room looking for the names of 75 black scientists. Vivian could name about 10 off the top of her head, but 75 seemed like a challenge. This experience proved to be the inspiration to create a guide to help librarians, students, and the general public find information about black scientists in the United States.
After many years of helping students find information about black scientists, Vivian collected her references and created the guide Blacks in the Sciences and Related Disciplines. She also published the significant work Blacks in Science and Medicine (New York, Hemisphere Pub., c1990), which contains over 1,500 biographical entries. Her work identifying biographical sources and information on black scientists is monumental. Her work has assisted thousands upon thousands of authors, black history scholars, librarians, students, and members of the general public to learn more about our country’s African American scientists.
Although Vivian is retired from the Library, we carry on the work she started. Our Science Reference Service continues to create and update guides to finding information on African Americans in science and technology:
African Americans in Science and Technology (Selected Internet Resources only)
And for information about African Americans in business, our Business Reference Service has compiled this excellent guide on African American Business Resources.
If you are interested in learning more about the history of African Americans in the sciences– Kenneth Manning has written extensively on the subject:
Manning, Kenneth R. African Americans in Science in Ideology, identity, and assumptions. Edited by Howard Dodson and Colin Palmer. New York, New York Public Library, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; Ann Arbor, MI, ProQuest CSA; East Lansing, Michigan State University Press, c2007. p. 49-56 (excerpt from the book)
Manning, Kenneth. Blacks in science have rich history, but diversity efforts must continue. MIT News, January 13, 1999.
Manning, Kenneth. Essays on Science and Society: Science and Opportunity. Science, v. 282, Nov. 6, 1998: 1037-1038.
For more information about events, exhibitions, and symposia this month, as well as, more resources on African American contributions– Check out the Library’s African American History Month portal. Also of interest is the Library’s new online exhibition NAACP: A Century in the Fight for Freedom.