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Top 5 Black Environmentalists The Whole World Should Never Forget

Every part of the world is currently suffering from the effects of climate change due to the ongoing environmental degradation of the planet through harmful human activities. Experts have warned of catastrophic consequences if nothing is done to prevent further damage to the environment.

Environmentalists around the world have been working tirelessly to educate people about the dangers of environmental degradation and ways in which this destruction can be stopped. Many of them have been forced to put their lives on the line by confronting wealthy establishments and corporations whose activities are harmful to the environment.

Here are the top 5 Black environmentalists that the world should never forget.


Dr. Beverly Wright. Photo credit: Youtube

Dr. Beverly Wright has done excellent work in the field of environmental justice. She is the founder of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice (DSCEJ), which has partnered with Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana, to address serious issues of health and environmental restoration in the region.

DSCEJ focuses mainly on research, policy development, community outreach, assistance, and the education of African-American families in New Orleans who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Dr. Wright, a professor of Sociology, has been advocating for a safe return of residents, while insisting on fairness with regard to standards of clean up.

She is well-known for her innovative and critical research on environmental justice, which informed the development of a curriculum that is currently being used by elementary schools in New Orleans.

Her valuable input in to President Bill Clinton’s Environmental Justice Transition Paper earned her a job at the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council in 1994.

Dr. Wright has received numerous awards, including the Environmental Justice Achievement Award 2008, Freedom Sisters Award 2009, SAGE Activist Scholar Award 2011, and many others.

John Francis

John Francis. Photo credit: TED

Nicknamed “the Planet Walker,” John Francis is an American environmentalist and author of the book “How To Change Your World One Step at a Time.” He vowed to dedicate his life to the environment as a young man, after witnessing the extent of environmental damage caused by the 1971 San Francisco Bay oil spill.

Since 1972, Francis has stopped using motorized vehicles and instead chose to walk long distances in an effort to sensitize people to the dangers of using fuel. After engaging in numerous arguments with friends and relatives over what he was doing, Francis decided to go silent for 17 years, only affording a phone call to his mother after 10 years.

He is a former employee of the United States Coast Guard, where he developed laws to regulate the management of oil spills. In 1991, Francis was appointed as a United Nations Environmental Program Goodwill Ambassador. He participated in the “Great Ocean Road” film produced by Tourism Victoria. He now lives in Point Reyes Station, California, with his family.

Watch Francis’ “Great Ocean Road” trailer here:

Prof. Wangari Maathai


Prof. Wangari Maathai. Photo credit: Citizen TV

The late-Prof. Wangari Maathai was a renowned Kenyan politician, environmental activist, and Nobel Peace Prize winner. She was the founder of the Green Belt Movement, a non-governmental organization focusing on environmental conservation (through the planting of trees) and women’s rights.

Since Wangari was staunchly devoted to environmental conservation and the fight against deforestation in Kenya, she often found herself in trouble with the Kenyan government, which was notorious for grabbing indigenous forests for private development.

Wangari authored the book “Replenishing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World.” Throughout her life, Wangari encouraged Kenyan women to plant trees, promising to pay them a small stipend for each seedling they planted.

In 2004, Prof. Wangari was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy, and peace. In her will, Wangari requested that her body be cremated and her ashes be buried in a traditional coffin to ensure no tree was destroyed for her casket. Wangari died in 2011 after a prolonged fight with ovarian cancer.

Watch Prof. Wangari’s Nobel Peace Prize speech here:

Majora Carter

Majora Carter. Photo credit: Frederick News Post

Majora Carter is an American environmentalist and urban revitalization strategist from the South Bronx area in New York. She is the founder of Green for All and Sustainable South Bronx, two well-established non-profit organizations focused on revitalizing urban centers and seeking environmental justice.

Carter is known for her commitment to improving urban settlement policies and empowering impoverished communities economically. Through Sustainable South Bronx, Carter started the Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training Program to create jobs in the city. It was America’s first urban green collar training and placement program.

Her commitment to conserving the environment has earned her numerous awards, including New York State Women of Excellence Award 2007, Liberty Medal for Lifetime Achievement 2008, Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Community Service 2007, among others.

Watch Carter discuss “Greening the Ghetto” during her Ted talk here:


Rene Ngongo. Photo credit: Parent Directory

Rene Ngongo is a renowned Congolese biologist and environmentalist committed to championing the protection of forests and social justice in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is the founder of OCEAN, a non-profit organization focused on giving a voice and infrastructure to Congolese people in their fight against deforestation.

Ngongo is an expert in environmental destruction in the Congo Forest Basin. He also works with forest communities in the country by sensitizing them to their rights with regard to protecting the environment.

The first person in DR Congo to win the Right Livelihood Award, which is considered the equivalent of Nobel Peace Prize, Ngongo began working with Greenpeace (a non-governmental environmental organization with offices in more than 40 countries) in 2004.

Since then, he has been challenging the Congolese government and international corporations that carry out mining activities in the DRC in order to ensure transparency in the ongoing forest reforms.

Watch Ngongo’s work be acknowledged here:




Written by How Africa

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