Recognizing Black Immunologists

Immunologists of color have figured prominently in immunology and in The American Association of Immunologists (AAI). From the time of its founding in 1913—a time when most professional organizations restricted membership to whites only—AAI has had no formal racial or gender restrictions.

Historically, Black Americans are underrepresented in scientific fields, and that is true of immunology as well. However, though their numbers are small, their contributions to the field are mighty, and their work has done much to advance the body of knowledge. Here we highlight contributions to the field and the association by Black Americans.


Black Pioneers in Immunology

Just as their accomplishments were rarely given the recognition they deserved by the scientific community, the histories of black immunologists have often been ignored or sidelined. In February 2021, AAI highlighted on social media the contributions to immunology by black Americans. Here we expand on the lives and careers of Onesimus, William Augustus Hinton, Julian H. Lewis, and Ellamae Simmons.


A Brief History of the Founding of the AAI Minority Affairs Committee

Today, the AAI Minority Affairs Committee (MAC) focuses on activities that enhance opportunities for the scientific and career development of underrepresented minority (URM) scientists. It was established in 1978 under the leadership of John Wallace (AAI 1958) to address the needs of diverse minority groups in a united committee. Read more about the founding of the MAC here.


Black History Month Video Project: AAI Celebrates Black Immunologists

During Black History Month, AAI is proud to celebrate the accomplishments of Black immunologists in our membership. In this series of 2-minute videos, Black AAI members talk about diversity in the field, what drew them to immunology, and their contributions and achievements in the field.

Avery August, Ph.D. (AAI ’99), AAI Council Member
HHMI and Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Swinburne Augustine, Ph.D. (AAI ’20)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Michael Opata, Ph.D. (AAI ’17)
Appalachian State University

Keke Fairfax, Ph.D. (AAI ’14)
University of Utah

Richard A. Goldsby, Distinguished Fellow of AAI

Richard Goldsby, a new inductee into the Distinguished Fellows of AAI, is the Thomas B. Walton, Jr. Memorial Professor of Biology Emeritus at Amherst College. Dr. Goldsby delivered the inaugural the AAI Vanguard Lecture in 2003 (known prior to 2015 as the AAI Minority Affairs Committee Guest Lecture) and elected a Distinguished Fellow of AAI in 2021. Below is a clip from Dr. Goldsby's 2016 oral history where he discusses African Americans in science and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. To learn more about Dr. Goldsby's career, click here.

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