Black History Month marks a time to recognize, celebrate, and reflect on the history and lives of African Americans in America. 

Notably, this year marks the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment, which granted black men the right to vote, and the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which provided women the right to vote.

Since the founding of the Department of Energy, African American involvement has played a significant role in furthering its mission.

From history to present, read about celebrated African American scientists  at DOE: 

Dr. William Jacob Knox Jr.

The Department of Energy traces its origins to World War II and the Manhattan Project effort to build the first atomic bomb. Dr. William Jacob Knox Jr played a significant role leading a Manhattan Project team where he was the only black supervisor. Knox who earned his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led his team to isolate a uranium isotope that was essential for sustaining chain reactions. Read more here.

Dr.  William Jacob Knox

Dr. Evelyn Boyd Granville

Dr. Evelyn Boyd Granville was the second African-American women to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics and helped in America's early space missions. Granville created computer software to analyze satellite orbits for NASA space programs. She was also a teacher. Granville taught computer programming at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA). She also helped write a textbook and took part in Miller Mathematical Improvement Project, where she taught elementary school students. Read more here.

Dr. Blanche J. Lawrence

Dr. Blanche J. Lawrence worked in the Health Division of the University of Chicago's Metallurgical Laboratory or "Met Lab" during the Manhattan Project. She was one of the few African-American women scientists of her day. She began working as a technician and, just five years later, became a junior biochemist at the lab. This was a major career accomplishment for African Americans in this time period. Read more here.

Illustration of Blanche Lawrence, a technician at the Met Lab during the Manhattan Project

Kétévi Assamagan

Kétévi Assamagan is a physicist at the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven Lab. Assamagan explores huge quantities of data from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Europe in search of new physics—potential holes and contradictions in the Standard Model of Particle Physics that describes the universe's most basic building blocks and explains how they interact. Assamagan is seeking to discover the answer to the age-old question, how did the universe come to be. Assamangan also started the African School of Physics, funded by Brookhaven Lab, which recently awarded post-doctoral appointments to 3 of the ASP Alumni. Read more here.

Kétévi Assamagan is a physicist at the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven Lab.

Clarice Phelps

Clarice Phelps serves as the program manager for the Ni-63 and Se-75 industrial use isotope programs at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Phelps was listed on the “Periodic Table of Younger Chemists” following an international competition conducted by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and the International Younger Chemists Network (IYCN). Phelps was cited "for her outstanding commitment to research and public engagement, as well as being an important advocate for diversity. She is the first African American woman to be involved with the discovery of an element, tennessine." Read more here.

Photo of Clarice Phelps from DOE.

Olivia Underwood

Olivia Underwood is a material scientist at the Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories. Underwood was recently was inducted in the 2019 class of Albuquerque Business First’s 40 Under Forty. Olivia’s work has drawn the attention of other organizations as well. This year she has received the 2019 Black Engineer of the Year Award as Science Spectrum Trailblazer, and the 2019 Frank Crossley Diversity Award from the Minerals, Metals and Materials Society. Reaad more here.

Olivia Underwood won the award.