Historic Sites Initiative Recognizes the Birthplace of the National Society of Black Physicists
The American Physical Society (APS) has designated Morgan State University and the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, South Dakota as Historic Sites. Each site will receive a plaque acknowledging its exemplary contributions to physics.
“As an institution rooted in the marvels of discovery and enlightenment, Morgan State University has long served as a haven for the nation’s Black scientific community—as well as a top producer of African-American graduates with degrees in STEM,” said David K.Wilson, president of Morgan State University. “We are truly honored to be designated an Historic Site by the American Physical Society. This notable distinction not only acknowledges Morgan’s early contributions to modern physics, but also our unrelenting commitment as an R2 classified doctoral research institution to cultivating tomorrow’s STEM leaders.”
The APS citation reads:
On April 28, 1977, Morgan State University became the birthplace of the National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP). Its founders sought to promote the professional well-being of African American physicists within society at large and within the international scientific community. They have successfully mentored young Black students to increase their representation in physics and technology. Their persistent professional devotion to inclusion has produced the largest national organization that actively supports African American physicists.
Morgan State University (Baltimore, Maryland)
In December 1972, a group of friends, colleagues, and former students gathered at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee to honor three prominent Black physicists: Halson Eagleson, Donald Edwards, and John Hunter. Subsequent events, which also included scientific lectures and seminars, were held at Howard University in May 1975 and Morehouse College in April 1976.
“These annual gatherings, which increasingly included both undergraduate and graduate students, grew in importance and significance, and led to the realization that a formal structure was needed to be effective in understanding, analyzing, and resolving various issues confronting African American participation in physics,” said Ronald E. Mickens, Distinguished Fuller E. Callaway Professor in the Department of Physics at Clark Atlanta University, who helped organize the events.
The organizers selected Morgan State University as the site of the following year’s event because of its large physics department and its proximity to other Historically Black Colleges and Universities and national research facilities, according to Mickens. The Society of Black Physicists was inaugurated there on April 28, 1977. The organization was later renamed the National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP) and has become the largest and most recognizable organization devoted to African American physicists.
Caltech science historian Diana L. Kormos-Buchwald, Chair of the APS Historic Sites Committee, noted: “The work of the NSBP has been pioneering and essential, but much remains to be done by all of us and the entire scientific community to significantly raise the number of African-American participants in science, and in physics in particular.”
“Morgan State University’s history of providing excellent undergraduate preparation for African-American students who have earned Ph.D. degrees in physics is impressive and noteworthy,” said James C. Davenport, professor emeritus at Virginia State University and one of the first full-time officers of NSBP. “The University’s productivity in physics education and research has contributed significantly to the African-American presence in physics.”
The American Physical Society is a nonprofit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy, and international activities. APS represents over 55,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world. Society offices are located in College Park, Maryland (Headquarters), Ridge, New York, and Washington, DC.
Morgan State University, founded in 1867, is a Carnegie-classified doctoral research institution offering more than 126 academic programs leading to degrees from the baccalaureate to the doctorate. As Maryland’s Preeminent Public Urban Research University, Morgan serves a multiethnic and multiracial student body and seeks to ensure that the doors of higher education are opened as wide as possible to as many as possible. For more information about Morgan State University, visit www.morgan.edu.
David Barnstone, for APS