Florence M. Margai
The sudden passing of Florence M. Margai on January 8, 2015, is of great sadness to the AAG and the geography community. She was a great advocate for the use of geographic data and tools to identify and address health issues.
Margai was born and raised in Freetown, Sierra Leone. She graduated with a BA in Geography from Fourah Bay College in 1985 then moved to the US where she earned a MA (1987) and PhD (1991) in Geography from Kent State University, Ohio.
From 1991 to 1994 she taught in the Department of Geography and Geological Sciences at Hunter College. She then moved to the Department of Geography at Binghamton University. In addition to her active involvement in the department, she served as an Associate Dean since 2011 and Interim Director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies since 2014.
Margai’s research and teaching centered around the Geographies of Health, particularly health disparities, environmental hazards, and environmental justice and equity. She also maintained an active interest in Africa, particularly her home region of West Africa.
The focus of her work was applied, utilizing geographic data and technologies to understand the spatial distribution of health disparities, particularly within marginalized communities, women, the elderly, and children. Research studies included malaria morbidity and treatment in West Africa, childhood health in Burkina Faso, linkages between lead poisoning and learning disabilities in US cities, and the distribution of hazardous substances in low-income and minority communities.
She also worked with several non-profit organizations in the US and Africa on the geographic targeting of vulnerable population groups for disease intervention and health promotional campaigns.
Margai’s extensive publication record included three books, the most recent of which was Environmental Health Hazards and Social Justice: Geographical Perspectives on Race and Class Disparities (Earthscan 2010). She also served as editor of the African Geographical Review.
She was actively involved in the AAG since becoming a member in 1987. Her contributions included serving as Chair of the African Specialty Group, organizing the first Race, Ethnicity, and Place Conference, and running one of the My Community, Our Earth workshops in Ghana in 2013. In 2014 she was elected to the Council and we were looking forward greatly to her further contributions to the work of the Association.
Florence leaves behind a husband, William, and two daughters, to whom we extend our most sincere condolences.