Beverly Wright, Ph.D.
Founder and Executive Director, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice
Member, White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council
Dynamic Visionary. Thought Leader. Advocate. Champion for Justice. Mother.
These are just a few of the words to describe Dr. Beverly Wright and her style and perspective as an environmental justice pioneer and global leader on climate issues. Dr. Wright has decades of experience rooted in science, research, and personal experiences on the most pressing issues exacerbating the climate crisis.
Dr. Beverly L. Wright is an environmental justice scholar, advocate, author, civic leader, professor of Sociology, and the Founder and Executive Director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice (DSCEJ), the first-ever environmental justice center in the United States. Under the Biden administration, Dr. Wright was appointed to the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, where she advises on how the federal government can address current and historic environmental injustices.
Born and raised in New Orleans, Dr. Wright has experienced and witnessed the polluting effects of Cancer Alley–an 85-mile stretch of land between Baton Rouge and New Orleans that is home to over 150 petrochemical plants and refineries– her entire life. Through decades of research and community organizing she found the effects of polluting industries were only made worse by the absence of community input. She developed the “communiversity model”, a partnership between communities and universities that integrates community concerns and real-life experiences into research and policymaking for academic educators and researchers.
Under her guidance, DSCEJ has addressed environmental and health inequities along the Mississippi River and coastal regions of Louisiana for two decades while providing education, health and safety training and job placement for residents in communities impacted by climate change. It also developed the first ever environmental justice map to show the connection between race and pollutants, which became the basis for how the EPA determined an environmental justice community to be eligible for funding.
Dr. Wright’s significant research on environmental justice led her to develop a groundbreaking curriculum that has been used to introduce thousands of students in the New Orleans Public Schools system to environmental justice. She also manages Hazardous Waste Worker Training Programs that embrace a work-based curriculum and a holistic approach to learning for young men and women living near contaminated sites, resulting in their employment.
Alongside other environmental justice organizations, Dr. Wright debuted the first-ever Climate Justice Pavilion inside the Blue Zone at COP27, the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference. The Pavilion brought together representatives from the Global South, the US Environmental Justice Movement, and indigenous peoples to spotlight the voices of communities disproportionately impacted by climate change.
Dr. Wright is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards including the Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leadership Award in 2006, the 2008 EPA Environmental Justice Achievement Award, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition 2008 Community Award, the Ford Motor Company’s Freedom’s Sisters Award in July of 2009, the prestigious 2009 Heinz Award as well as the 2010 Beta Kappa Chi Humanitarian Assistance Award bestowed by the National Institute of Science and the Conrad Arensberg Award given by the Society for the Anthropology of Work in 2010. Additionally, she was also recognized by the Grios as one of its 100 History Makers in the Making in 2010. She also received the Urban Affairs Association’s SAGE Activist Scholar Award in May of 2011.
She is the author of numerous scholarly books and articles. She co-authored Race, Place & the Environment After Hurricane Katrina from Westview Press, and The Wrong Complexion for Protection: How The Government Response Endangers African-American Communities from New York University Press. Dr. Wright received her BA from Grambling College and her MA and PhD in Sociology from the State University of New York at Buffalo, from where she also received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2003.
Dr. Wright currently serves on numerous boards and committees including the Greenfield Environmental Multistate Trust, LLC (Member 2021 – Present), the Equitable & Just National Climate Platform (Member 2021 – Present) the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC) (Member 2020 – Present), the Justice 40 Initiative Workgroup (Member 2020 - Present), the City of New Orleans Communities LEAP US Department of Energy (Member 2020 – Present), the Gulf Study Scientific Advisory Board, National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Durham, NC. (Member 2011 - Present) , the City of New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board, New Orleans, LA. (Member 2010 - Present), the Tony Mazzocchi Center – United Steelworkers of America, Pittsburgh, PA. (Advisory Board - Present), the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum (EJLF) (Member 2008 – Present), African American Women of Purpose and Power (AAWPP), New Orleans (Founding President and Board Member 2008 – Present), the Gulf Coast Fund, New Orleans, LA (Member 2006 - Present), Parkway Partners, New Orleans, LA (Member 2006 – present), the Environmental Justice Climate Change Initiative (Co-Chair, Advisory Board 2002 - present), the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, New Orleans, LA (Member 2010 – Present), and We Speak for Ourselves, The Panos Institute, Washington, DC, (Advisory Committee Member - Present).