IMPAQ Celebrates Black History Month

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

In honor of Black History Month, we are recognizing the accomplishments of some prominent African American economists, sociologists, mathematicians, and statisticians who have made notable contributions to their fields. These trailblazers help advance our researchers' understandings of their prospective fields and inform our analysis of program and policy evaluations. Because of their important contributions, everyone in our industry can better evaluate, implement, and analyze public programs and policies.


Abram Lincoln Harris, Jr. (January 17, 1899 – November 6, 1963) was born in Richmond, Virginia and became an accomplished economist and anthropologist.1 Considered by many as the first African American to achieve prominence in the field of economics, Dr. Harris is also known for his heavy influence on black radical and neo-conservative thought in the United States.2,3 In 1935, he was the main author of a work, the Harris Report, suggesting that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) take a more active stance on class and race relations.4

Andrew Felton Brimmer (September 13, 1926 – October 7, 2012) was a Louisiana sharecropper’s son and the first black member of the Federal Reserve Board,. He is known for leading efforts to reverse the country’s balance-of-payments deficit. Dr. Brimmer taught at Harvard and held several high-ranking posts in Washington, DC. Later in his life, Dr. Brimmer spoke more frequently about government policies and how they did not support economic programs for African Americans.5

Margaret C. Simms is an expert on the economic well-being of African Americans and is among first African American women to graduate from high school and complete college.6 Her current work focuses on low-income families, with an emphasis on employment and asset building.Dr. Simms is an Institute Fellow in the Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population at the Urban Institute, where she directs the Low-Income Working Families initiative.8

William E. Spriggs is a Chief Economist at the American Federation of Labor & Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and professor in the Department of Economics at Howard University.9 In 2009, Dr. Spriggs was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as Assistant Secretary for the Office of Policy at the US Department of Labor. Previously, he also led economic policy development and research at the Economic Policy Institute, the National Urban League, the US Department of Commerce, the US Small Business Administration, the Joint Economic Committee of the US Congress, and the independent federal National Commission for Employment Policy.10

Edward B. Montgomery is a nationally recognized labor economist and the ninth president of Western Michigan University. He has been an academic researcher for more than 35 years and played major roles in both the Clinton and Obama administrations. Throughout his career, Dr. Montgomery has focused on state and local economic growth, wage and pension determination, savings behavior, productivity and economic dynamics, social insurance programs, and unions.11


Anna Julia Cooper (August 10, 1858 – February 27, 1964) was a writer, educator, and public speaker who was born into slavery in Raleigh, North Carolina.12 She was the fourth African American woman to earn a doctorate, a Ph.D. in history from the University of Paris-Sorbonne in 1924.13 Dr. Cooper’s work is a staple of early American sociology and is frequently taught in sociology, women's studies, and race classes. Her first and only published work, A Voice from the South, is considered one of the first articulations of black feminist thought in the US.14

William Edward Burghardt “W.E.B.” Du Bois (February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963) was a renowned sociologist, race scholar, and activist. He wrote several books on sociology that are still studied today, particularly on how sociologists examine race and racism. Dr. Du Bois is regarded as one of the founders of the discipline, along with Karl Marx, Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Harriet Martineau.15 He was also a founding officer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and a founder and editor of its magazine, The Crisis.16

Patricia Hill Collins is an American sociologist known for her research examining issues of race, gender, social class, sexuality, and nationality.17 She served in 2009 as the 100th President of the American Sociological Association and was the first African American woman elected to this position.18 Dr. Collins is the Charles Phelps Taft Emeritus Professor of Sociology within the Department of African American Studies at the University of Cincinnati and is a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland.17

Mathematicians & Statisticians

David Harold Blackwell (April 24, 1919 – July 8, 2010) was the son of a railroad worker in Southern Illinois and become a world-famous statistician. In 1965, Dr. Blackwell became the first African American elected to the National Academy of Sciences, whose members advise the President and Congress. He was also the first African American tenured faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley.19 Dr. Blackwell was a pioneer in game theory and wrote one of the first Bayesian textbooks, Basic Statistics.20

Albert Turner Bharucha-Reid (November 13, 1927 – February 26, 1985) was a mathematician and theorist who worked extensively on probability theory, Markov chains, and statistics.21 He published more than 65 papers and articles and several books during his career. Dr. Bharucha-Reid advanced research in the fields of probability theory and physics, while collaborating with mathematicians and scientists around the world.22 Throughout his career, Dr. Bharucha-Reid worked to create opportunities and increase recognition for minorities and women in the field of mathematics and within academia overall.21

Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson is an African American mathematician who contributed to NASA’s aeronautics and space programs during the early application of digital electronic computers. She conducted technical work at NASA for decades and she is known for her computerized celestial navigation accuracy. While at NASA, Johnson calculated the trajectories, launch windows, and emergency back-up return paths for many flights, including the missions of Alan Shepard and John Glenn, the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the Moon, and plans for a mission to Mars.23 She was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and was the subject of the book and movie Hidden Figures.24


Linda Darling-Hammond is the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education Emeritus at Stanford University, where she founded the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and served as the faculty sponsor of the Stanford Teacher Education Program.25 In addition, Governor Gavin Newsom named her as one of the nation’s most prominent education researchers and appointed her to head California’s State Board of Education.26 Darling-Hammond is a past president of the American Educational Research Association and received its awards for Distinguished Contributions to Research, Lifetime Achievement, and Research-to-Policy.25

Gloria Ladson-Billings is an American pedagogical theorist and teacher educator on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Education and researcher at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. A past president of the American Educational Research Association, Ladson-Billings has earned many awards and accolades for her research in the best practices of those who successfully teach African-American children and how Critical Race Theory applies to education.27

William Julius Wilson is the Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Education and the Institute of Medicine. He is also past President of the American Sociological Association and is a MacArthur Prize Fellow. In 1998 he was awarded the National Medal of Science.28

Others Not (Yet) On This List

If you know of other notable African American researchers, let us know and we can amend this list.



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  19. Michael D. Sorkin. (2010, July 14). David Blackwell fought racism; became world-famous statistician. Retrieved February 12, 2018, from
  20. Grimes, W. (2010, July 16). David Blackwell, Scholar of Probability, Dies at 91. Retrieved February 12, 2018, from
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  26. Freedberg, L., & Freedberg, L. (n.d.). Gov. Newsom names new head of State Board of Education in California. Retrieved from
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