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Meet The First Black Evolutionary Biologist To Earn A Ph.D. In Evolutionary Biology

Updated: Apr 29, 2023

Photo Credits: North Carolina A&T University

Meet Joseph L. Graves Jr., the first black American to receive his Ph.D. degree in evolutionary biology.

Brief Background(Also a brief list for those in a hurry)

Joseph L. Graves Jr. is an American evolutionary biologist and geneticist. He is a professor of Biological Sciences at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Some of his professional and research work include:

  1. Former Associate Dean of Research at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering.

  2. Research in the evolution and physiological performance of Drosophila(fruit flies).

  3. Has several books written about the theories of race and common myths. The books include, "A Voice in the Wilderness: A Pioneering Biologist Explains How Evolution Can Help Us Solve Our Biggest Problems" and "The Emperor's New Clothes: Biological Theories of Race at the Millennium".

  4. Has made appearances in six documentaries.

Early Life

Graves was born in 1955 and grew up in Westfield, New Jersey. In his early days as a child and young adult, he experienced several hardships involving racism and bias in the education system at the time. Graves says, " My parents were poor. They didn't know how to read. I had to teach myself how to read," he also stated, "The school system of my home was racially biased. When I was in kindergarten, teachers wanted to declare me mentally retarded so that I could be placed in a special education curriculum. The regular curriculum had a tracking system," Graves continues. "For no apparent reason, all the black kids ended up on the lower track.

Despite Graves' tough journey through the education system, he rose to the top of his class and was ranked one of the top students at his high school. He then accepted a scholarship to attend Oberlin College and graduated with his A.B. in Biology in 1977. For the next two years, he spent time at the Institute for Tropical Disease at the University of Lowell. After this Graves would receive his Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology at Wayne University.

Where Is Graves Now?

Currently, Graves is a professor at the historically black college, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

He continues to write books that deal with race, evolutionary biology, and common myths about race.



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