With honor and appreciation, Clean Power Alliance is proud to celebrate these African American pioneers in the energy industry and as environmentalists during Black History Month.
Colonel Charles Young
If you have ever had the opportunity to gaze upon the majestic Sequoia trees in California’s Sequoia National Park, you can thank Charles Young, the first Black colonel in the United States Army and fierce protector of the great Sequoias. It was under the careful instruction of Colonel Young that the U.S. Army worked to preserve the Sequoias and transformed the Sequoia forest from an impenetrable wilderness into the revered Sequoia National Park.
Young’s journey toward this position was a difficult one, as he was born into slavery in Kentucky on March 12, 1864. It was through the legacy of his father, who had escaped slavery to join the Union Army during the Civil War, that Young attended West Point Military Academy. Not only was Young the third African American to graduate from West Point, but he was the first Black National Parks Superintendent, where environmental preservation was at the forefront of his life’s work.
In this position, Young ensured the preservation of the great wilderness, and commanded a group of park rangers that became known as the “Buffalo Soldiers.” They kept the park free from poachers and ranchers whose grazing sheep destroyed the parks’ natural habitats. In 2013, Young was recognized as a true American hero, when President Barack Obama used the Antiquities Act to designate Young’s house as the 401st unit of the National Park System, the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument.
Denise Gray – President, LG Chem Michigan Inc. Tech Center
Denise Gray is a long-time pioneer in the field of electric vehicles. Gray currently holds the position of President of LG Chem Michigan Inc. Tech Center (LGCMI) – the North American subsidiary of lithium-ion battery maker, LG Chem Korea. She has served as Vice President of Electrification Powertrain Engineering at AVL List GmbH in Austria, where she was responsible for leveraging AVL’s global capability to provide electrification engineering services to the automotive industry.
Most of her 30+ year career was spent at General Motors (GM), where she spearheaded efforts in vehicle electrical and powertrain systems controls and software, including battery systems. Many of these efforts were centered around the second generation of commercially electric vehicles, including the Chevy Volt, which she launched while holding the title of Global Director of Batteries for GM’s EV1.
Gray has been a proponent of the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and a frequent participant at STEM events. Her strong support of the STEM curriculum played a role in her receiving the 2017 Women of Color Technologist of the Year Award, which recognizes the exceptional achievements of distinguished multicultural women who excel in STEM.
Dr. Robert Bullard
Dr. Robert Bullard is often referred to as the father of the environmental justice movement. He has authored numerous books on the prominence of waste facilities in predominately African American areas all over the nation. Other books address urban land use, industrial facility siting, housing, transportation, climate justice, emergency response, smart growth, and equity.
In 2013, he was the first African American to be honored with the Sierra Club John Muir Award. When asked what keeps him going in his quest for environmental justice, Bullard answers, “People who fight…people who do not let garbage trucks and the landfills and the petrochemical plants roll over them. That has kept me in this movement…”
Lisa Jackson – Vice President, Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, Apple
As Apple’s Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, Lisa Jackson has overseen the company’s efforts to reduce their impact on the environment. From 2009 to 2013, under the Obama Administration, Jackson served as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where she focused on reducing greenhouse gases.
Jackson led the agency on the decision to classify greenhouse gases as pollutants and to begin limiting carbon pollution from power plants. Through her role at Apple, the company met their 100 percent renewable electricity goal in 2019 and has a new prototype robot named “Daisy” that can disassemble nine types of iPhones and sort the parts for recycling.
To learn more about Lisa Jackson's achievements, click here.