black history month

Celebrating Black Environmentalists: Honoring Their Legacy During Black History Month

From the Depths to the Treetops: Celebrating Black Environmental Leadership

Black History month is a time to give recognition and highlight the significance of the extraordinary contributions of Black individuals to our society. While prevalent across many fields and industries, we wanted to take the time to spotlight a field that is close to our hearts and our mission: environmentalism.

Join us as we pay homage to the Black environmentalists whose groundbreaking, and ground-mending, work continues to inspire and drive positive change in the conservation movement.


Dr. Ayana Elizabeth JohnsonDr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson    📸:

One such luminary is Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, a marine biologist, policy expert, and writer whose influential voice resonates in ocean conservation, climate change, and environmental justice discussions. Dr. Johnson's commitment to advocating for policies aligned with economic, racial, climate, and environmental justice goals is exemplified through her role as a steering committee member for the Ocean Justice Forum. Additionally, as the co-author of the Blue New Deal, she has provided a vital roadmap for integrating the ocean into climate policy. Dr. Johnson's co-founding of the non-profit think tank, Urban Ocean Lab, further underscores her dedication to developing climate and ocean policies for coastal cities, with a focus on integration with oceans and Great Lakes.


Wangari Maathai
Wangari Maathai   📸:
We also honor the remarkable legacy of Dr. Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan scholar and internationally recognized environmental and human rights activist. Dr. Maathai's pioneering work began in 1977 with the establishment of the Green Belt Movement, which introduced the concept of community-based tree planting to conserve the environment and improve the lives of local communities. To date, the organization has planted over 51 million trees in Kenya. Her historic achievements, including being the first person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for environmental efforts, and the first African woman to receive this award, highlight her profound impact on the conservation landscape. Dr. Maathai's tireless advocacy serves as a beacon of hope for environmentalists worldwide.

In addition, we pay tribute to the late MaVynne “Beach Lady” Betsch, an environmental activist and opera singer whose unwavering dedication to preserving American Beach in Florida (historically, the oldest African-American Beach) from destruction and development, left an indelible mark on conservation efforts. Betsch's tireless advocacy and generous contribution of her life savings of $750,000 to 60 environmental organizations and causes, exemplify the spirit of grassroots activism and philanthropy, inspiring future generations to protect our natural heritage.

Dorceta Taylor
Dr. Dorceta Taylor 📸:
Dr. Dorceta Taylor, an American environmentalist and sociologist, has dedicated her career to advocating for environmental justice and addressing racism within the environmental movement. As the senior associate dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the Yale School of the Environment, Dr. Taylor's work has been instrumental in fostering a more inclusive and equitable environmental field. She wrote the book: The Environment and the People in American Cities: 1600s-1900s, which became the first history of environmental injustice in America. Her numerous awards and accolades- Women in Conservation Rachel Carson Award,  Freudenburg Lifetime Achievement Award, National Science Foundation’s Presidential Award, University of Michigan Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award, and the President’s Award from the Detroit Audubon Society, underscore her contributions to advancing diversity and inclusion within the environmental sector. These advancements have paved the way for a more representative and equitable future.
Let us honor the legacies of these remarkable individuals, and recommit ourselves to advancing environmental justice and equity. We at Clean Beauty Collective remain steadfast in our mission to support initiatives that promote a cleaner, healthier planet for all. This year, we partner with EARTHDAY.ORG to Protect Our Oceans and bring attention to the importance of safeguarding our oceans and their inhabitants. We continue to strive to amplify the voices of environmentalists that came before us, and create a more inclusive and sustainable future for generations to come.