African Americans in Science

What You Need


  • Poster board
African Americans in Science Image Credit: NASA - JSC


To explore the careers of prominent African Americans in science, mathematics, and technology.


The images that many people have of science and how it works are often distorted. The myths and stereotypes that young people have about science are not dispelled when science teaching focuses narrowly on the laws, concepts, and theories of science. This is why it is also important to include lessons about real people, both living and historical. It is important for students to understand how science is organized because, as adults in a democracy, they will be in a position to influence what public support will be provided for basic and applied science. (Benchmarks for Science Literacy, p.14.)

Science also provides a living for a very large number of people. Teachers should seize opportunities for introducing information on science as a diverse line of work. Above all, children in early adolescence need to see science and science-related careers as a real option for themselves personally. That does not imply heavy, possibly premature recruiting, but means broadening student awareness of the possibilities and helping all students keep themselves eligible for these possibilities. If such awareness develops in a proper context, then the knowledge gained will be valuable to all students when they become adult citizens, regardless of vocation. (Benchmarks for Science Literacy, p.17.)


Using the African American Scientists student esheet, students should read about the career of Dr. Mae Jemison. After students have read the article, discuss Dr. Jemison's life story briefly with the class. Her story is an inspirational one that is marked by great achievements. Use this as a springboard to discuss other renowned African American scientists, mathematicians, and engineers with which students might be familiar, such as Lewis Latimer, Charles Drew, or Ernest Just.


As described on the esheet, students will use The Faces of Science: African Americans in the Sciences website, which includes profiles of past and present African Americans engaged in science and technology categorized by discipline and indexed by name. There are sixteen different professional categories. Each student should examine scientists from at least five different categories. After students have explored the websites, discuss these questions with the class:

  • Who are some of the people that you read about?
  • What kind of work do they do?
  • Which achievements did you find most impressive?


Using the African American Scientists student sheet, students should prepare a poster of a prominent scientist, mathematician, or engineer that demonstrates an understanding of the important role that some African American scientists have played in science, mathematics, and engineering. Their posters should be based on information that they have discovered in their research. Display the posters around the classroom and provide each student with an opportunity to present their project to the class.


The Science NetLinks lesson What Do Scientists Do? can be used to help students refine their ideas about the scientific enterprise.

The following resources include links to information about a wide variety of African Americans in various scientific disciplines:

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Lesson Details

Grades Themes Project 2061 Benchmarks National Science Standards