News | February 1, 2021

Celebrating Black Environmentalists

Environmentalism is a movement that is often thought of as being predominantly white, with a focus on issues like recycling, renewable energy, and protecting natural areas. There has been a growing movement of Black environmentalists who are raising awareness about these issues and advocating for environmental justice.

Black Environmentalists You Need to Know

This February we’re highlighting some of the Black Environmentalist voices we’re listening to as we think about the work ahead to build a healthy environment for all. Scroll through for names to know and accounts to follow in honor of Black History Month.   

Heather McTeer Toney

(@Tenola Plaxico)

Heather McTeer Toney was the first Black, woman, and youngest-ever mayor of Greenville, Mississippi, and is now The Moms Clean Air Force Senior Director. She has opined that African Americans, and particularly Southern Black women, have long been environmental activists and conservationists, partially because so many have lived in polluted communities and are impacted by toxic chemicals every day.

Follow her here:

Twitter: @HeatherMcTeer | Instagram: @heathermcteertoney | Facebook: @HeatherMcTeerToney

Chandra Taylor

(@Stephanie Grossman)

Senior Attorney and leader of SELC’s Environmental Justice Initiative, Chandra Taylor has built her career fighting environmental justice cases in her home state of North Carolina, with a focus on water quality issues. Over the years since starting at SELC in 2006, Chandra says it’s the courage of folks she’s working alongside that makes her a better advocate.

Click here to learn more about her work protecting waterways with a Black fenceline community living near a former industrial smelter in eastern North Carolina.

Follow her here:

Twitter: @chandrattaylor

Catherine Coleman Flowers

(@MacArthur Foundation)

Perhaps best known for exposing the widespread lack of basic sanitation in the rural South, Catherine Coleman Flowers is Founder and Executive Director of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise. She released her memoir “Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret” in November.

Follow her here:

Twitter: @CathFlowers | Instagram: @catherinecflowers | Facebook: @CatherineColemanFlowers

J. Drew Lanham


Ornithologist and author Drew Lanham is a Clemson University professor obsessed with birds. His debut book, The Home Place, Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Affair with Nature, won SELC’s 2018 Reed Environmental Writing Award in the Book category.

Follow him here:

Twitter: @1blackbirder

Latria Graham

(@Carlo Nasisse)

Latria Graham is a writer, editor, cultural critic and fifth-generation South Carolinian. She has written widely on a variety of topics with a focus on the dynamics of race, gender norms, nerd culture, and football. Her writing for Outside Magazine has delved into her experiences on the trail.

Follow her here:

Twitter: @LatriaGraham | Instagram: @mslatriagraham

Nathaniel Smith

(@Partnership for Southern Equity)

As Chief Equity Officer at the Partnership for Southern Equity, Nathaniel Smith is driving a conversation about what an equity agenda looks like in Atlanta and beyond. This includes addressing energy equity along with health and access to opportunity with the aims to “advance just outcomes that are sensitive to the needs and circumstances of the populations in question – erasing the barriers that stand in the way for everyone to succeed.”  

Follow him here:

Twitter: @N8TL_1

Dr. Robert Bullard

(@University of Michigan)

Dr. Robert Bullard, a professor at Texas Southern University in Houston, has played a founding role in the field of environmental justice, writing one of the first academic reports on the issue, published in the 1970s. He continues to research and teach on the issue, highlighting the connections between equal justice and environmental justice.  

Follow him here:

Twitter: @DrBobBullard

Stay Up to Date

Follow these featured Black Environmentalist voices to stay up to date on their amazing work on environmental issues. 

Black environmentalists, conservationists and scientists are an essential part of the environmental movement, bringing diverse perspectives and experiences that enrich our understanding of the issues at hand. By highlighting the intersection of environmentalism with race, social justice, and public health, they are working to create a more inclusive and equitable environmental movement.