Black Male Influencers who have Impacted Nutrition

By: Varsha R., Lifestyle Consultant & Phalen M. MPH, LN, Lifestyle Consultant

As we celebrate black history month, we recognize the accomplishments and efforts of four famous male African American Food Science and Nutrition Pioneers the month of February. Their work has had a lasting impact on nutrition, dietetics, and public health.

These male pioneers advocated for healthier practices and used their skills and knowledge to educate others through proper nutrition. Their dedication also improved food science techniques for more nutritious, safe food handling and food consumption around the world.

John M. Flack, MD, MPH (July 1, 1955 – ) – Part I

-John M. Flack, MD, MPH serves as the Vice President of The American Society of Hypertension Board and sat on six other professional boards throughout his career. He was born at Hill Air Force Base in Utah and was adopted at the age of 18 months by a couple in Chickasha Oklahoma. John’s father ran an auto body shop that he established in the 1940s. His mother was an employed counselor and teacher who obtained her master’s degree. John’s parents focused on his education and inspired his love for learning. At the age of 5, John had already narrowed his career path down to two: Doctor or Astronaut. John attained his Bachelor’s in Chemistry in 1978 from Langston University, continued his education with a Master’s in Public Health at the University of Oklahoma School of Public Health in 1988, and then got a second Master’s degree in Public Health, concentration: Epidemiology from the University of Minnesota

School of Public Health in 1990.

Flack worked with a group of world-class cardiovascular scientists while earning his Master’s in Epidemiology. Most of his early research examined how diet and lifestyle affect the health of various groups, focusing on the biomarkers and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. After his research, Flack worked closely with populations suffering from severe hypertension. Flack linked hypertension with culinary traditions and felt strongly about treating it with healthy eating practices. He stated , “a diet loaded with fried foods and salt, and sugar can be as harmful as living in a food desert- your neighborhoods without access to fresh fruits and vegetables.” Research completed by John suggested that vitamin D is a safe, and cheap over-the-counter supplement useful in helping overweight African Americans, with hypertension and severe vitamin D deficiency, decrease blood pressure and aid in weight loss. His main treatment philosophy Is to gradually lower blood pressure with dietary practices such as reduced dietary sodium, moderate alcohol intake, gradual increase in physical activity, and weight loss.

Lloyd Augustus Hall (June 20, 1894 – January 2, 1971) – Part II

-Lloyd Hall was born in Elgin, Illinois on June 20th, 1894, and later died on January 2nd, 1971. Lloyd was a pioneer in the field of food chemistry and is remembered for his impact on Food Science. He created many preservative chemicals now used to keep food fresh without losing its flavor. In addition to his efforts in food preservation, Lloyd introduced the use of antioxidants to prevent the spoilage of fats and oils in bakery products.

Lloyd received a B.S. in pharmaceutical chemistry from Northwestern University in 1914 and furthered his education at the University of Chicago. Lloyd Hall was one of America’s top food chemists, known for one of his most common preservatives, a mixture of sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite, which he successfully combined and proved to be the most satisfactory curing salt marketed in the country. Lloyd was awarded several honors including honorary degrees from Virginia State University and Howard University/, He was also inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his creations.

Frederick McKinley Jones (May 17, 1893 – February 21, 1961) – Part III

Frederick Jones was the first African American to be awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.  Frederick was best known for revolutionizing the preservation and transportation of foods and other perishables from meats to fresh produce. Frederick was born in 1893 in Covington, Kentucky to a railroad-working Irish man and a black mom, who left his life when he was a child.  By the age of 10, Frederick’s father died, and Frederick was raised by a priest. By the age of 14, Frederick began to work as an automobile mechanic.

By the age of 19, Frederick moved to Hallock, Minnesota, and worked as a mechanic before joining the army.  After serving in the Army during World War I, Frederick returned to Hallock and later designed 3 different models of the first refrigeration truck. Model A was designed to preserve food, Model B was designed for a smaller and lighter refrigeration truck, and Model C refrigeration truck was designed in the front of the truck to withstand travel vibrations. Due to McKinley’s Thermo-King Cooperation invention, many people for the first time around the world were able to enjoy fresh foods from around the globe. Frederick throughout his life went on to develop other machines like the first portable x-ray machine and an early prototype of a snowmobile.

James McCune Smith (April 18, 1813 – November 17, 1865) – Part IV

James McCune Smith was well known as the first black American to obtain a medical degree and treating both black and white patients when he served as a chief doctor at the New York City Colored Orphan Asylum.

In 1813, Smith was born into slavery and became free on July 4th,1827 by the Emancipation act in New York City. Smith’s mom became a free slave, as well as other slaves around this time in New York.  Even though Smith was mostly raised by his mom, Samuel Smith, Smith’s father, his mother’s master, and a white merchant brought Smith’s mother from North Carolina to New York and never had a relationship with Smith.

At the age of eleven, Smith attended an African American free school throughout his childhood.  Smith wanted to continue his education in college, but due to racial discrimination, Smith was denied admission to Columbia University and Geneva Medical College in New York State.  Rev. Peter Williams Jr, Smith’s tutor, encouraged Smith to study at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.  Upon his arrival in Liverpool, Smith finally felt free to continue his studies at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. At the age of 24, he became the first black American to obtain a medical degree and the first black male to obtain a medical degree from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

Soon after leaving Scotland, Dr. Smith was also the first black American to run a pharmacy in the nation. Dr. Smith also served as a leader for the members of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Smith was also known as a prolific writer. Smith wrote a Dissertation commenting on the positive ways that ethnic Africans would influence U.S. culture and society, in music, dance, food, and other elements.  One of his main focuses besides serving others in the field of medicine was to provide how Africans would influence U.S. culture and society, in music, dance, food, and other elements.  Smith died about 3 weeks before the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery.


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