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SEATTLE, WA - Black scientists have made monumental contributions to scientific innovation and public health, saving lives around the world. They have overcome centuries of segregation and discrimination in science, from the 1700s when enslaved men and women were used as guinea pigs to test smallpox vaccines to the 1900s when Black scientists were not allowed to stay in conference hotels, revoked memberships to scientific associations, and stripped of career opportunities because of the color of their skin. Now, Black scientists are at the forefront of innovation and are contributing to groundbreaking research, including designing mRNA vaccine technology that has saved millions of lives.

Yet, there are still large disparities in the number of Black scientists working in the STEM industry and their pay. Only 2 of every 100,000 Black residents are chemical engineers, compared to the 29 of every 100,000 U.S. residents. In 2017, Black professionals in STEM fields had a median annual salary of $72,000 as compared with $97,000 for white professionals.

While the world has made some progress in encouraging Black students and workers in STEM fields, more needs to be done to support the equitable advancement of historically marginalized communities in pursuing a successful career in STEM. The Black community is breaking barriers and creating critical role models to inspire and support the next generation of scientists – today, AAHI recognizes and celebrates some of these inspirational Black scientists.

Recognizing and Celebrating Black Scientists

Developed the first effective Leprosy treatment

Alice Ball

first black woman in the fda

Alma Levant Hayden, PhD

pioneered testing cancer drugs on human cancer cells

Jane Cooke Wright, MD

the use of her cells without consent led to research that underpins modern medicine

Henrietta Lacks

analyzed how antibodies bind to viruses like hiv and sars-cov-2 to prevent infection

Christopher Barnes, PhD
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