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Category: Black History

Dr. Booker T. Whatley

Dr. Booker T. Whatley grew up seeing the number of black farms declining and the remaining ones struggling to compete with industrialized agriculture. Whatley was an advocate for regenerative agriculture, among other environmentalist practices. At the height of the civil rights movement, he began counseling the Black farmers who were deeply engaged in that struggle.

This led him to pursue a degree in agricultural studies at Alabama A&M University, gaining knowledge that helped him serve in the Korean War where he operated a 55-acre hydroponic farm to provide food for the troops. Upon his return from the war he got his doctorate in horticulture and became a professor at Tuskegee University.

Whatley introduced the concept of “clientele membership clubs” in the 1960s to help struggling Black farmers, who often were denied the loans and grants afforded to their white counterparts. The farmers would sell pre-paid boxes of their crops at the beginning of the season to ensure a guaranteed income. In many instances, customers would harvest their shares themselves, which saved on labor costs.

Today’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) and U-Pick farming enterprises grew directly from Whatley’s ideas, as, it can be argued, did the farm-to-table and eat-local movements.

In June 2021, the Kellogg Company created a series honoring food pioneers and featured Dr. Whatley in this series.

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Dr. Melva L. Ware

Dr. Melva Ware spoke during a Cooperative Extension First Friday meeting on February 3, 2023.

Dr. Ware directed UD’s ASPIRE (Academic Support Program Inspiring Renaissance Educators), which supports access for members of underrepresented groups to University of Delaware degree programs, emphasizing preparing students for careers as teachers and educators. Her primary focus in her career at the Univesity was to focus on improving underrepresented minority and low-income students access to college, including students’ preparation.

She has written about social, political, and curricular factors that influence schooling outcomes for African Americans.

A recording of Dr. Ware’s candid and inspiring presentation is below.

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Dr. Robert Bullard

Often described as the father of environmental justice, Dr. Robert Bullard is a former Dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School. He holds a PhD and is an award-winning author of 18 books. He is known for his work highlighting pollution in minority communities and speaking up against environmental racism in the 1970-1980s. 

In 2018, the Global Climate Action Summit named Dr. Bullard one of 22 Climate Trailblazers.  And in 2019, Apolitical named him one of the world’s 100 Most Influential People in Climate Policy, Washington State University honored him with the William Julius Wilson Award for the Advancement of Justice and Climate One named him the Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication.

In 2020, Bullard received the Champion of the Earth Lifetime Achievement Award. The annual Champions of the Earth award is the UN’s highest environmental honor. It recognizes outstanding leaders from government, civil society and the private sector.

In 2021, President Joe Biden named him to the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC). And in 2022, University of California, Berkeley Ecology Law Quarterly gave him its Environmental Leadership Award, Georgetown University awarded him an honorary doctorate and he was elected to join the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Find Dr. Bullard’s books on Good Reads

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February celebrates Black History Month

In 1915, in response to the lack of information on the accomplishments of Black people available to the public, historian Carter G. Woodson co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History.

In 1926, the group declared the second week of February as “Negro History Week” to recognize the contributions of African Americans to U.S. history. What was once a week-long event became a month-long celebration in 1976 when U.S. president Gerald Ford extended the recognition.

Since 1976, every American president has designated February as Black History Month and endorsed a specific theme.

The Black History Month 2023 theme, “Black Resistance,” explores how “African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms and police killings,” since the nation’s earliest days.

We acknowledge that Black History is more than one month, but it is important to pay homage to where we come from as we progress forward.

During February, the CANR DEI Committee will showcase a selection of Black innovators related to agriculture and the environment.