By the late 1960s and early 1970s the roster of senior African American physicists included James Young, who was at LANL and later MIT, Joseph Johnson (Southern University), Harry Morrison (Berkeley), Pete Bragg (Berkeley), Charlie Harper (Cal State Haywood), James Davenport (Virginia State), Rutherford Adkins (Fisk), James Lawson (Fisk), Warren Henry (Howard), Herman Branson (Howard), and Howard Foster (Alabama A&M), who kept a roster of Blacks in physics. These senior physicists served as role models and mentors to generations of African American physics students, giving emotional and at times financial support.
Events in the spring of 1972 led African American physicists to start convening for an awards banquet that included a Day of Scientific Lectures and Seminars (DOSLAS). These events not only included the scientific sessions, there would also be a social event and banquet to recognize the accomplishments of a specific member of the African American physics community. Out of these DOSLAS meetings NSBP was founded in 1977.
The first DOSLAS meeting was held in December 1972 at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. The purpose was to honor three outstanding African- American physicists: Dr. Donald Edwards, Dr. John McNeil Hunter, and Dr. Halson V. Eagleson. Dr. Edwards received his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in X-Ray diffraction crystallography and was the founding Chair of the Department of Physics at North Carolina A&T State University. Dr. Hunter received his Ph.D. from Cornell University and previously served as the Chair of the Department of Physics at Virginia State University. Dr. Eagleson received his Ph.D. from Indiana University in Acoustics and was Professor of Physics at Howard University.
A second DOSLAS meeting was held at Howard University in May 1975. The awardees at this meeting were Herman Branson, Warren Henry and James Lawson. The third DOSLAS meeting occurred in May 1976 at Morehouse. It was at this meeting that discussions took place on establishing some type of national Black physics organization. Drs. Jim Davenport, Warren Henry, Walter Massey, Harry Morrison, Carl Spight, and James Young took on the task of planning the next DOSLAS meeting and for the founding of a national organization.
The Society of Black Physicists was inaugurated on Thursday, April 28, 1977 at Morgan State University with Drs. Walter Massey and James Davenport serving respectively as interim president and secretary-treasurer. In 1978 at Morehouse College the Society formally elected its first officers, and later the society was renamed the National Society of Black Physicists.
Not long after the 1978 meeting, a Constitution and Bylaws were written which called for the election to two-year terms of the following officers: President, President-Elect/Past- President, Treasurer, Administrative Executive Officer, and Technical Executive Officer. Many outstanding physicists have served as President through the years, including Drs. Shirley Jackson, Ernest Coleman, Joseph Johnson, Kennedy Reed, Sekazi Mtingwa, Sylvester James Gates, James Stith, Charles McGruder, Keith Jackson, and Quinton Williams.
Today, NSBP is the largest and most recognizable organization devoted to the African-American physics community. Its membership numbers in excess of one hundred professionals and students. The purpose of NSBP is to promote the professional well- being of African-American physicists within the scientific community and within society at large. The organization seeks to develop and support efforts to increase opportunities for African Americans in physics and to increase their numbers. It also seeks to develop activities and programs that highlight and enhance the benefits of the contributions that African American physicists provide for the world community.
Under years of able leadership, the National Society of Black Physicists has developed into a truly viable organization with a mission which strongly supports our country's leadership role in science and technology.
For more information see, The Genesis of the National Society of Black Physicists, in Edward Bouchet: The First African-American Doctorate, 2002, ed. R. Mickens, World Scientific Publishing, Singapore
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