Black Geographers 2001-2010

Celebrating Black Geographers

The Second Cohort: 2001-2010

The Celebrating Black Geographers anthology was inspired by the report titled Black Geographers in Institutions of Higher Education in the United States: Where They Are and a Selected Bibliography of Their Works, published in 2003 by Joe T. Darden and Lucia Terra. This anthology of Black Geographers is an expansion of the previous report, born out of the necessity to have a publicly available single source database that chronicles the contributions of Black Geographers to the discipline of Geography. This collection includes photographs, biographies, and interesting facts. The anthology places into context the events occurring at the time when these geographers were matriculating. 

Black geographers are teachers, lecturers, or professors of African American or Black/African descent, who possess advanced degrees in geography, and who have a demonstrated track record of teaching and research in the discipline of Geography. The early cohort represents those who received their highest degree between 1900 – 2000. 

Like the inspirational document noted above, we hope this collection brings awareness to the impacts, contributions, and legacies Black geographers have had on the discipline, their communities, and the world. Another aim of this anthology is to demonstrate the professional opportunities possible with an advanced degree in geography. We also hope this compilation will encourage potential students from underrepresented backgrounds to seek higher education opportunities in geography. 

While we seek to celebrate Black geographers, we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that even among Blacks in geography there exist underrepresentation of American born Black geographers compared to those of international ancestry. 

As an African American woman geographer who graduated from the Department of Geography Environment and Spatial Science at Michigan State University in 2020 where we have produced a number of Black geographers, I was only the second African American woman to receive a PhD, the first was Juanita Gaston some 43 years prior. 

Programs like the Advancing Geography Through Diversity Program (AGTDP) at Michigan State University seeks to address the underrepresentation of African Americans, Latinx Americans, and Native Americans in geography graduate programs. Increased representation will have profound impacts on the discipline, scholarship, and society as a whole. 

Lastly, though exhaustive research was conducted in order to locate all Black geography graduates for the stated time period, we recognize that the current list may still not be all inclusive. Therefore, if you know any Black geographers who should be included in this tribute, please complete the form here. Cohorts from 2001-2010 and 2011-2020 forthcoming. 

This project was developed by Dr. Demetrice “Dee” Jordan, a Black geographer whose focus is Health and Medical Geography. She is an alumnus of the Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Science at MSU and Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. 

Special thanks to Dr. Joe T. Darden – Professor of Geography at MSU, Dr. Christopher K. Tucker – Chairman of the American Geographical Society (AGS), James Mallinson – Manager, Operations & Events, Nicole Oveisi – Special Projects and Initiatives Coordinator, and Dr. John Allensworth (ret.) for their contributions. 

Preferred citation: Demetrice Jordan, et.al, “Celebrating Black Geographers: The Second Cohort 2001-2010,” American Geographical Society, last modified February 9, 2022, https://americangeo.org/black-geographers-2001-2010.

Click HERE to submit an entry

2001
  • Apple iTunes launched (January 9, 2001)
  • Terror attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, the U.S. Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania (September 11, 2001)
  • War in Afghanistan (October 7, 2001 – August 30, 2021)
kobena hanson

PhD, Queen’s University, 2001

Research Interest: Development, urban planning, household survival

Dr. Hanson is Principal Evaluation Capacity Development Officer with the Independent Development Evaluation (IDEV) Division of the African Development Bank. He was an Assistant Professor of Geography and Planning at West Virginia University-Morgantown before going into industry. His research interests include urban livelihood strategies, housing, social networking, and vulnerability in sub-Saharan Africa. He is the Co-founder of Strategic Outlooks, a research consulting and policy advisory firm in Accra, Ghana, and a member of the management team at Causal Links, Washington, D.C. Dr. Hanson also served as Head of Knowledge and Learning, at the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF). Prior to joining ACBF, he was the Knowledge Management Coordinator, Ghana SHARP Project; a USAID/Futures Group International initiative for Ghana. Over his career, Dr. Hanson has published a number of critical articles on development policy, social networking, and urban livelihood strategies. Read more.

David padgett

PhD, University of Florida, 2001

Research Interest: Geographic Information Systems, Geoscience, Environmental Studies

Dr. Padgett is an Associate Professor of Geography, Founder and Director of the Geographic Information Sciences Laboratory at Tennessee State University (TSU). During his tenure at TSU, Dr. Padgett developed a service learning based Geography/Environmental Justice curriculum and provided technical assistance in geoscience and geographic information systems (GIS) to environmental justice communities throughout the United States. He is an American Geographical Society Ethical Geo Fellow and the 2020 Medalist for Youth Learning as Citizen Environmental Scientists (YLACES), Inc., Youth Environmental Science (YES) Medalist. As TSU’s Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program trainer and partner, Dr. Padgett has trained and certified many of TSU pre-service teachers and in-service educators in the GLOBE protocols. Read more.

Samuel K. Thompson

PhD, University of Akron, 2001

Research Interest: Urban and Regional Planning, Geography, Public Administration

Dr. Thompson is Chair and Professor of the Department of Geography, Geographic Information Science, and Meteorology at Western Illinois University. Read More.

2002
  • The No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law (January 8, 2002)
  • The Beltway sniper attacks begin in Montgomery County Maryland (October 2, 2002) and continue through Washington, D.C., and Virginia
  • A Birmingham jury convicts Ku Klux Klan member Bobby Frank Cherry of the 1963 bombing at 16th Street Baptist Church (May 22, 2002)
Christiana Asante-Ashong

MA, University of Akron, 2002

Research Interest: Physical geography, environmental issues, population, socioeconomics, Africa

Ms. Asante-Ashong is a Lecturer in the History and Geography department at Grambling State University. She is a Ghanaian immigrant and serves as a referee for the African Review journal.  Ms. Asante-Ashong is a member of the Ghana Geographical Association, Ghana National Association of Teachers, and American Association of Geographers. Read more.

2003
  • Iraq War begins (March 20, 2003 – December 15, 2011)
  • The U.S. Supreme Court upholds affirmative action in university college admissions in the decision of Grutter v. Bollinger (June 23, 2003)
  • Mad cow disease outbreak begins in Washington state prompting several countries to ban U.S. beef (December 24, 2003)
Madeleine Wong

PhD, York University, 2003
Research Interest: Population and social geography, gender and migration, transnationalism, development

Dr. Wong is a Professor in the Global Studies Department at St. Lawrence University. She was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and African Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Wong is from Ghana and her research focuses on trans-national interactions between Ghanaian immigrant communities in the United States and their home communities in Ghana. Read more.

2004
  • Facebook launches (February 4, 2002)
  • Massachusetts legalizes same-sex marriage Goodridge v. Department of Public Health (May 17, 2004)
  • Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mrs. Coretta Scott King receive the Congressional Gold Medal (October 25, 2004)
Francis Koti

PhD, Western Virginia University, 2004

Research Interest: Geography: Urban Geography; Africa; Participatory GIS, water access

Dr. Koti is Professor and former Chair of Geography in the Department of Global Health and Human Geography at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). Prior to joining the faculty of MTSU, he served as Chair of the Department of Geography and Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Alabama, Secretary of the Southeastern Division of the American Association of Geographers (SEDAAG), and guest editor of a special edition Africa Today journal. Dr. Koti is an urban geographer, and his research interests are participatory geographic information systems (GIS) frameworks with a regional focus on urbanization and peri-urban development in Africa. A native of Kenya, Dr. Koti is the Co-founder and former Executive Secretary of the Kenya Scholars and Studies Association (KESSA), Founder of the Diaspora Community of African Geospatial Scientists, and has led several education abroad excursions to Tanzania. In 2021, Dr. Koti gave the Keynote address at Harvard University’s Cities COVID Mitigation Mapping and Mapping Virtual Symposium. Read more.

2005
  • Hurricane Katrina makes landfall becoming one of the costliest and deadliest natural disasters in the U.S. (August 29 – August 30, 2005)
  • The subprime mortgage housing bubble in the U.S. bursts (October 1, 2005)
  • Rosa Parks becomes the first woman to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda (October 24, 2005)
2006
  • Sago Mine disaster of West Virginia trapped 13 miners, killing 12 (January 2, 2006)
  • Great American Boycott a Day Without Immigrants (May 1, 2006)
  • The world’s tallest tree, a sequoia was found in the Redwood National Park (September 8, 2006)
fenda akiwumi

PhD, Texas State University, 2006

Research Interest: Environmental Geography, Social Geography, Ethnic Geography

Dr. Akiwumi is a Professor of Environmental Geography in the Geography, Environmental Science and Policy Program at the University of South Florida. Her research focuses on natural resource extraction, sustainable development, indigenous knowledge systems, and equity in resource distribution, environmental degradation, and access. She has served as Chair of UNESCO International Hydrological Programme (IHP) Expert Advisory Group on Water and Cultural Diversity. Dr. Akiwumi is the recipient of several awards including the American Association of Geographers (AAG) Kwadwo Konadu-Agyeman Distinguished Scholar Award in African Geography in 2019, the Harm J. de Blij Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Geography Teaching in 2018 and the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) Higher Education Distinguished Teaching Award. She is currently on a National Geographic grant addressing environmental and sustainability issues, and integrating cultural perceptions, community education, awareness and involvement. Read more.

Carolyn Finney

PhD, Clark University, 2006

Research Interest: Society-Environment and Race, Cultural Geography

Dr. Finney is the Artist-in-Residence and Environmental Studies Professor of Practice in the Franklin Environmental Center at Middlebury College. She is an author, cultural geographer, and climate justice activist. Dr. Finney was a Fulbright fellow and Canon National Science Scholar. She has taught at Wellesley, the University of California Berkeley, and the University of Kentucky. Dr. Finney has served on the U.S. National Parks and worked for various media outlets. She is a columnist at the Earth Island Journal. In 2021 she received the Alexander and Ilse Melamid Medal from the American Geographical Society. Her recent works include Self-Evident: Reflections on the Invisibility of Black Bodies in Environmental Histories (BESIDE Magazine, Montreal Spring 2020),” The Perils of Being Black in Public: We are all Christian Cooper and George Floyd (The Guardian, June 3rd, 2020) and “Who Gets Left Out of the Great Outdoors Story?” (The NY Times November 4, 2021). Read more.

Rasul Mowatt

PhD, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 2006

Research Interest: Urban Geography, Racial Geographies of Public Space, Violence and the Geographies of Threat, and the Theory of the Leisure Class and the Sociology of Leisure

Dr. Rasul A. Mowatt is Professor and Head of the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management at North Carolina State University. He was Associate Chair of the Department of American Studies and Geography at Indiana University-Bloomington. His research focuses on the Geographies of Race, Geographies of Violence and Threat, and the Political Animation of Public Space. He is a Research Affiliate of Race, Ethnicity, and Social Equity in Tourism (RESET). Some of his critical works include “The intersections of historical racial violence and racial discrimination that informs Black travel in Current Issues in Tourism;” and “The utilization of archival maps and materials of the work of W. E. B. Du Bois’ The Philadelphia Negro to consider how cities have historical and racialized impacts on quality of life”. Dr. Mowatt received the Beth Wood Distinguished Service-Learning Faculty Award four years in a row from 2015-2016; 2014-2015; 2013-2014; 2012-2013. He is the President of the Academy of Leisure Sciences, Co-editor of Leisure Sciences, and founding editor of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism in Public Health. He recently published book titled The Geographies of Threat and the Production of Violence: The State and the City Between Us. Read more.

Yvette Pye

PhD, University of Minnesota, 2006

Research Interest: Black Urban Geography, Urban Social Geography

Dr. Pye is a Core Professor in the Ed.D. in Leadership program at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and Executive Coach of the University of St. Thomas’ Executive MBA. She is an award winning educator, author, and community advocate. Dr. Pye is the Founder of Dream Big Institute & The Pye Family Foundation for Literacy & Education. She received a MacArthur Foundation International Program of Peace and Cooperation fellowship. Dr. Pye published her memoir GOING From the Projects to PhD: Transcending My Geography in 2012 with a second printing in 2015. Her other works include, “Courage Under Fire: Handcuffed and Gagged by the Street”, and “Innovations in Mentoring: Many Faces of Chosen to Achieve.” Read more.

2007
  • Nancy Pelosi becomes the first woman elected U.S. Speaker of the House (January 4, 2007)
  • First iPhone released in the U.S. (June 29, 2007)
  • Space Shuttle Endeavour successfully launched mission to the International Space Station (August 8, 2007)
Evelyn Cooper

PhD, University of Maryland – College Park, 2007

Research Interest: Geography, Public and Social Welfare

Dr. Cooper is an Assistant Dean for Academic Programs and Director of Retention and Diversity at University of Maryland’s (UMD) College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Prior to joining the administration of UMD, Dr. Cooper was a Professor in the Geography Department at the University of Maryland Global Campus and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography, History, and Philosophy at Grambling State University. During her tenure at UMD, Dr. Cooper has implemented numerous innovative outreach programs to encourage underrepresented minorities to pursue agricultural and environmental careers. Two of the noteworthy programs include the Summer Opportunities in Agricultural Research and the Environment (SOARE) UMD and Ag Discovery at UMD. Read more.

2008
  • Pope Benedict XVI visits the U.S. (April 15-April 20, 2008)
  • California becomes the second state to legalize same-sex marriage (May 15, 2008)
  • U.S. Senator Barack Obama became the first African-American U.S. President-elect (November 4, 2008)
2009
  • US Airways Flight 1549 lands in the Hudson River after losing power in both engines, all survived (January 15, 2009)
  • U.S. swine flu epidemic begins (April 24, 2009)
  • Justice Sonia Sotomayor becomes the first Hispanic American appointed to the United States Supreme Court (August 8, 2009)
2010
  • Haiti earthquake (January 12, 2010)
  • BP’s Deep Water Horizon explosion (April 20, 2010)
  • Wikileaks releases thousands of confidential U.S. government documents (November 28, 2010)