The Root 100 - The Most Influential African Americans in 2020 - 53: Janina Jeff

Oleg Dyachenko
·1 min read

In an age when genetic tests are increasingly popular among Black Americans eager for insight into their ancestry, Janina Jeff is a crucial resource for contextualizing the stories and immense value that live in our genomes. After graduating from Spelman College and earning a Ph.D. in human genetics from Vanderbilt University-the first African American to do so-Jeff launched the podcast _In Those Genes_ to help American descendants of enslaved Africans connect the dots of their history. Jeff feels passionately that Black people should "be the shareholders of their own DNA" and use the testing technology available today to build generational knowledge and wealth. Her culturally conversant podcast (check out the pun in the title) won Spotify's inaugural Sound Up Bootcamp competition in 2018, and her focus on ensuring that African Americans are informed in the conversation around genetic research and its targeted commercialization led to her receiving the American Society of Human Genetics' Advocacy Award in 2020-making her the first Black person and youngest geneticist to receive the honor.