2024 Black History Month: Black Plant Scientists Spotlight

A Message from the Initiative Originator, Kevin Cox Jr., Ph.D:

Throughout my career, I have attended a number of exciting scientific conferences. These conferences have provided me with a chance to share my science among my peers, network and build new connections, and hear selected speakers give interesting presentations over their work. While all of this sounds great, there was an issue I noticed with the last point, particularly as a Black-American – a lack of Black plant scientists were giving talks at these conferences and even at departmental seminars.

When I would ask about this, traditionally the response I received was that one of the main reasons for this was that “Black scientists were difficult to find”. I personally disagreed with this notion. In addition, I also realized that in order to stop this common perception, it is important for the masses to know that there are plenty of Black plant scientists out there doing some amazing work. With the power of social media literally in my hands in the form of a smartphone, in February 2021 I set out on a personal challenge to highlight one Black Botanist a day, for all of Black History Month, on X (formerly known as Twitter).

Every Black History Month from February 2021 to February 2023, I successfully completed this task, resulting in over 80 Black Botanists highlighted on my profile. This brought visibility to these exceptional scientists and their work across the science community on social media. Unfortunately, due to the changing nature of X, I felt it was too risky to continue highlighting and tagging these social media profiles.

This year, and hopefully for the foreseeable future, I am presenting another list consisting of 29 Black Botanists on Plantae. I moved my list to this platform to have a safe place to highlight the profiles of these scientists and to recognize other outstanding Black Botanists that do not have social media platforms. I would like to thank ASPB (particularly Sarah Black and Jayson Padilla) for offering me their platform so I can continue this tradition. Lastly, I do apologize to anyone that was left off this year’s list – there are many more Black plant scientists out there and I hope through these last four years of my individual effort, everyone is now aware of that.















About Kevin Cox Jr., PhD

Kevin Cox is a HHMI Hanna Gray Fellow that will be starting a joint faculty appointment in July 2024 as an Assistant Professor of Biology at Washington University in St. Louis and an Assistant Member/PI at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. Kevin’s research interest is in spatial genomics, or the spatial organization of genes, with a core objective of unraveling the communication mechanisms within plant cells. He aims to use spatial genomics to further understand how plants interact with microbes and how duckweed plants grow and develop. Kevin is also a co-director of Front & Center, a visibility and community building campaign for Black, Indigenous, & Latine scientists in the plant biology community.