Within days of the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on 25 May 2020, five early-career Black physicists at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) began to write what became a 17-page manifesto calling on lab leaders to do more to achieve racial justice and equity.
The manifesto was a daring—and unprecedented—act of public protest by employees of the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) preeminent high-energy physics laboratory. The scientists, all under the age of 40 and none of them tenured, say they knew they lacked institutional clout. But Doug Berry, Jessica Esquivel, Brian Nord, Bryan Ramson, and Tammy Walton could no longer tolerate what they saw as the lab’s failure to provide “a welcoming, equitable, and just work environment for Black people,” they wrote. Transforming an institution at which Black scientists have historically been almost invisible should begin, they continued, by “listening to and doing what Black employees say they need, and not making plans for us without us.” And they chose a name, the Change Now collective, that emphasized their sense of urgency and the importance of united action.
Floyd’s murder and the resulting surge of the Black Lives Matter movement triggered many such calls for change across the U.S. scientific community and around the world. One of the largest events occurred on 10 June 2020, when participants in #ShutDownSTEM demanded an end to “business as usual” at universities and research facilities.