A History of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

December 1, 2021

Who We Were in 1961 Informs Who We Are in 2021

By: Myrtle Davis, DVM, PhD, ATS, 2021–2022 SOT President

Remembering Benjamin A. Jackson

SOT Charter Member and First African American Member

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SOT leadership and members have listened to various opinions about our science, our profession, and our community throughout the Society’s 60-year history. These opinions often remind us of how important it is to remain fully committed to fostering an environment and a community that are diverse, fair, and inclusive while supporting our members as they pursue scientific advancement, research, and professional development. By being vigilant in this regard, we uphold the SOT values and principles, including serving the needs of the scientific discipline.

When I think about the Society’s history, I recall the influence that our Charter member Benjamin Jackson had on our science as described in “Remember Benjamin A. Jackson,” an in memoriam piece authored by Dr. Claude McGowan, with input and guidance from Drs. Benita Jackson-Smoot, Stuart Graham, and Sidney Green.

Four woman of different ages and ethnicities stand in a circle. All are looking at a piece of paper that they are holding between them. They are smiling as they look at the paper and appear to be trying to figure out something.

I did not know Dr. Jackson personally, but I do know what the cultural climate in the United States was for Black people and Black scientists in the 1950s and 1960s. Looking at his accomplishments, he achieved excellence as a scientist despite the barriers, tremendous obstacles, and life-threatening danger that he may have faced. Knowing of his perseverance and the accomplishments of others like him during a time when the preference was “other” is beyond inspiring because history is clear: many scientists with talent that far exceeded any of ours were not allowed to practice the art of science or join professional scientific organizations despite their scientific excellence.

We all bring an unmeasurable set of experiences to the table, and with that, we enrich the other organizations and groups of which we become members and in which we serve. I truly believe this is key to cultivating a rich environment—an environment in which all can thrive—for scientists today and for those who will come after us. By maintaining a legacy of inclusion and fairness exemplified by our Society’s founding group of toxicologists in 1961, we will continue to create professional relationships that are meaningful and inclusive.

SOT will continue to approach science and professional engagement with a perspective steeped in our history and with recognition of the advantages that diversity and inclusivity have brought to our organization and our profession. We will remain vigilant so that the environment that all SOT members experience is enriching, welcoming, and professionally rewarding. With that, SOT will continue to grow and be an organization where we work together to highlight our excellence as a community of scientists and maximize the influence of the toxicological sciences.