Habitat & Conservation  |  02/12/2024

Celebrating Black History Month: Pioneers of Conservation


Notable black conservationists in American history

In celebration of Black History Month, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever seeks to highlight Black individuals who, against historical odds, became champions for the habitat and wild places we cherish. Their contributions have shaped the landscapes we hunt for the better. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are devoted to making the uplands accessible to all people. In that process we aim to expand, educate, and engage the entirety of the upland conservation community.

Soloman Brown (1829-1906)

Solomon Brown, a pioneering conservationist and educator, left an indelible mark at the intersection of conservation and education. Living through the Civil War era as a free Black man, Brown’s knowledge and passion for the natural world set him on a remarkable path. Despite facing numerous challenges, Brown’s determination led him to become a self-taught naturalist with an expertise in ornithology, the study of birds. 

His keen observations and love for nature paved the way for a groundbreaking career in conservation. He would eventually become the first Black employee of the Smithsonian Institute where he focused on natural history collections, and played a pivotal role in cataloging and preserving specimens.

Beyond his contributions to the Smithsonian, Solomon Brown was a fervent advocate for nature education, especially for African American communities. He believed in the transformative power of connecting people with the natural world, emphasizing the importance of environmental education for everyone. Brown’s outreach efforts included organizing lectures, nature walks, and exhibitions to foster a deeper appreciation for biodiversity. In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of Brown’s contributions, acknowledging his role as a trailblazer in the fields of conservation and education.

Charles Young (1864-1922)

Charles Young made a lasting impact not only as a military leader but also as a pioneering conservationist. A child of slaves, Young later graduated from West Point, was the first Black military attaché to represent the U.S. Army, became the first Black man to achieve the rank of colonel in the U.S. Army, and became the first Black superintendent of a national park. 

In 1903, Young became the superintendent of Sequoia and General Grant national parks (who boast healthy populations of valley quail). During his tenure as superintendent, Young focused on enforcing park regulations, preventing illegal logging, grazing, and poaching, and fostering an appreciation for the parks’ ecological significance. 

In 2013, President Barack Obama posthumously promoted Young to the rank of brigadier general, acknowledging his significant contributions to the military and conservation. The Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio was also established to honor his memory and celebrate the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers.

George Washington Carver (1864-1943)

Born into slavery in Diamond Grove, Missouri, George Washington Carver rose to become one of the most prominent Black scientists of the 20th century. Renowned for his contributions to agriculture, George Washington Carver was not only a botanist and inventor but also a staunch advocate for sustainable farming practices. 

He was the head of the Agriculture Department at the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) for 47 years where he researched and taught generations of Black students sustainable farming techniques that benefitted both farmers and the land. Throughout his life, he was outspoken about conserving American wildlands. Carver’s research on crop rotation and soil conservation significantly impacted American agriculture, emphasizing the importance of ecological balance in preserving the land.

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever seeks to use our platform to boost black voices in conservation. We are actively seeking to expand our membership to individuals from all walks of life. By actively recruiting members from diverse communities, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever seeks to enrich our collective knowledge, enhance our conservation efforts, and ensure that the love for the outdoors and wildlife spans across a broad spectrum of individuals who share a passion for conservation. Become a member today at pheasantsforever.org/join and quailforever.org/join.