Duke alumnus and civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. knows environmental racism when he sees it – he coined the term in a jail cell.

In 1982, Chavis was arrested during a citizen protest as the state government tried to dump toxin-laced soil in Warren County, North Carolina.

“Forty years ago, of the 100 counties in North Carolina, Warren County was the most predominantly Black,” Chavis said during the fall 2022 Robert R. Wilson Distinguished Lecture.

The incident spurred the birth of the environmental justice movement and led to a landmark 1987 report documenting environmental racism by mapping locations of toxic waste disposal across the United States.

The lecture featured Chavis in conversation with Catherine Coleman Flowers, an environmental and climate justice activist and 2020 MacArthur Fellow.

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