Why are African Americans so underrepresented when it comes to interest in nature, outdoor recreation, and environmentalism? In this thought-provoking study, Carolyn Finney looks beyond the discourse of the environmental justice movement to examine how the natural environment has been understood, commodified, and represented by both white and black Americans. Bridging the fields of environmental history, cultural studies, critical race studies, and geography, Finney argues that the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial violence have shaped cultural understandings of the "great outdoors" and determined who should and can have access to natural spaces. Drawing on a variety of sources from film, literature, and popular culture, and analyzing different historical moments, including the establishment of the Wilderness Act in 1964 and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Finney reveals the perceived and real ways in which nature and the environment are racialized in America. Looking toward the future, she also highlights the work of African Americans who are opening doors to greater participation in environmental and conservation concerns.
Author: James Edward Mills
Publisher: Mountaineers Books
Release Date: 2014-09-24
Genre: Sports & Recreation
• Chronicles the first all-African American summit attempt on Denali, the highest point in North America • Part adventure story, part history, and part argument for the importance of inspiring future generations to value nature The nation’s wild places—from national and state parks to national forests, preserves, and wilderness areas—belong to all Americans. But not all of us use these resources equally. Minority populations are much less likely to seek recreation, adventure, and solace in our wilderness spaces. It’s a difference that African American author James Mills addresses in his new book, The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors. Bridging the so-called “adventure gap” requires role models who can inspire the uninitiated to experience and enjoy wild places. Once new visitors are there, a love affair often follows. This is important because as our country grows increasingly multicultural, our natural legacy will need the devotion of people of all races and ethnicities to steward its care. In 2013, the first all-African American team of climbers, sponsored by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), challenged themselves on North America’s highest point, the dangerous and forbidding Denali, in Alaska. Mills uses Expedition Denali and its team members’ adventures as a jumping-off point to explore how minority populations view their place in wild environments and to share the stories of those who have already achieved significant accomplishments in outdoor adventures—from Mathew Henson, a Black explorer who stood with Peary at the North Pole, to Kai Lightner, a teenage sport climber currently winning national competitions. The goal of the expedition, and now the book, is to inspire minority communities to look outdoors for experiences that will enrich their lives, and to encourage them toward greater environmental stewardship.
Author: Sylvia Hood Washington
Publisher: Lexington Books
Release Date: 2004-12-23
Genre: Social Science
This important new book by Sylvia Washington adds a vital new dimension to our understanding of environmental history in the United States. Washington excavates and tells the stories of Chicago's poor, working class, and ethnic minority neighborhoods—such as Back of the Yards and Bronzeville—that suffered disproportionately negative environmental impacts and consequent pollution related health problems. She provides a new frame for interpreting the social, political, and administrative initiatives of the early 20th century that influenced public health and urban revitalization movements in some of Chicago's most disenfranchised communities. This pioneering work will be essential reading not only for historians, but for urban planners, sociologists, citizen action groups and anyone interested in understanding the precursors to the contemporary environmental justice movement.
Author: Camille T. Dungy
Publisher: University of Georgia Press
Release Date: 2009
Black Nature is the first anthology to focus on nature writing by African American poets, a genre that until now has not commonly been counted as one in which African American poets have participated. Black poets have a long tradition of incorporating treatments of the natural world into their work, but it is often read as political, historical, or protest poetry--anything but nature poetry. This is particularly true when the definition of what constitutes nature writing is limited to work about the pastoral or the wild. Camille T. Dungy has selected 180 poems from 93 poets that provide unique perspectives on American social and literary history to broaden our concept of nature poetry and African American poetics. This collection features major writers such as Phillis Wheatley, Rita Dove, Yusef Komunyakaa, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sterling Brown, Robert Hayden, Wanda Coleman, Natasha Trethewey, and Melvin B. Tolson as well as newer talents such as Douglas Kearney, Major Jackson, and Janice Harrington. Included are poets writing out of slavery, Reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement, and late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century African American poetic movements. Black Nature brings to the fore a neglected and vital means of considering poetry by African Americans and nature-related poetry as a whole. A Friends Fund Publication.
Author: Dianne D. Glave
Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Pre
Release Date: 2005-12
Genre: Social Science
An analysis of the relationship between African Americans and the environment focuses on three major themes: African Americans in the rural environment, African Americans in the urban and suburban environments, and African Americans and the notion of environmental justice.
Author: Dianne D. Glave
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Release Date: 2010-08-01
With a basis in environmental history, this groundbreaking study challenges the idea that a meaningful attachment to nature and the outdoors is contrary to the black experience. The discussion shows that contemporary African American culture is usually seen as an urban culture, one that arose out of the Great Migration and has contributed to international trends in fashion, music, and the arts ever since. But because of this urban focus, many African Americans are not at peace with their rich but tangled agrarian legacy. On one hand, the book shows, nature and violence are connected in black memory, especially in disturbing images such as slave ships on the ocean, exhaustion in the fields, dogs in the woods, and dead bodies hanging from trees. In contrast, though, there is also a competing tradition of African American stewardship of the land that should be better known. Emphasizing the tradition of black environmentalism and using storytelling techniques to dramatize the work of black naturalists, this account corrects the record and urges interested urban dwellers to get back to the land.
Winner of the 2009 Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment Biennial Prize for 'Best Book of Ecocriticism,' Race and Nature from Transcendentalism to the Harlem Renaissance examines a neglected but centrally important issue in critical race studies and ecocriticism. Paul Outka asks how natural experience became racialized in America from the antebellum period through the early twentieth-century and draws compelling new conclusions. Drawing on theories of sublimity and trauma the book offers a critical and cultural history of the racial fault line in American environmentalism that to this day divides largely white wilderness preservation groups and the largely minority environmental justice movement.
Author: Kimberly N. Ruffin
Publisher: University of Georgia Press
Release Date: 2010
Genre: Literary Criticism
American environmental literature has relied heavily on the perspectives of European Americans, often ignoring other groups. In Black on Earth, Kimberly Ruffin expands the reach of ecocriticism by analyzing the ecological experiences, conceptions, and desires seen in African American writing. Ruffin identifies a theory of “ecological burden and beauty” in which African American authors underscore the ecological burdens of living within human hierarchies in the social order just as they explore the ecological beauty of being a part of the natural order. Blacks were ecological agents before the emergence of American nature writing, argues Ruffin, and their perspectives are critical to understanding the full scope of ecological thought. Ruffin examines African American ecological insights from the antebellum era to the twenty-first century, considering WPA slave narratives, neo–slave poetry, novels, essays, and documentary films, by such artists as Octavia Butler, Alice Walker, Henry Dumas, Percival Everett, Spike Lee, and Jayne Cortez. Identifying themes of work, slavery, religion, mythology, music, and citizenship, Black on Earth highlights the ways in which African American writers are visionary ecological artists.
Author: Laura Pulido
Publisher: University of Arizona Press
Release Date: 1996
Genre: Political Science
Ecological causes are championed not only by lobbyists or hikers. While mainstream environmentalism is usually characterized by well-financed, highly structured organizations operating on a national scale, campaigns for environmental justice are often fought by poor or minority communities. Environmentalism and Economic Justice is one of the first books devoted to Chicano environmental issues and is a study of U.S. environmentalism in transition as seen through the contributions of people of color. It elucidates the various forces driving and shaping two important examples of environmental organizing: the 1965-71 pesticide campaign of the United Farm Workers and a grazing conflict between a Hispano cooperative and mainstream environmentalists in northern New Mexico. The UFW example is one of workers highly marginalized by racism, whose struggle--as much for identity as for a union contract--resulted in boycotts of produce at the national level. The case of the grazing cooperative Ganados del Valle, which sought access to land set aside for elk hunting, represents a subaltern group fighting the elitism of natural resource policy in an effort to pursue a pastoral lifestyle. In both instances Pulido details the ways in which racism and economic subordination create subaltern communities, and shows how these groups use available resources to mobilize and improve their social, economic, and environmental conditions. Environmentalism and Economic Justice reveals that the environmental struggles of Chicano communities do not fit the mold of mainstream environmentalism, as they combine economic, identity, and quality-of-life issues. Examination of the forces that create and shape these grassroots movements clearly demonstrates that environmentalism needs to be sensitive to local issues, economically empowering, and respectful of ethnic and cultural diversity.
Author: Kimberly K. Smith
Release Date: 2007
Examines the works of Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, and several other canonical figures, to uncover a rich and vital tradition of black environmental thought from the abolition movement through the Harlem Renaissance. Provides the first careful linkage of the early conservation movement to black history, the first detailed description of black agrarianism, and the first analysis of scientific racism as an environmental theory.
Author: Mark Dowie
Publisher: MIT Press
Release Date: 2011-02-25
Since 1900, more than 108,000 officially protected conservation areas have been established worldwide, largely at the urging of five international conservation organizations. About half of these areas were occupied or regularly used by indigenous peoples. Millions who had been living sustainably on their land for generations were displaced in the interests of conservation. In Conservation Refugees, Mark Dowie tells this story. This is a "good guy vs. good guy" story, Dowie writes; the indigenous peoples' movement and conservation organizations have a vital common goal--to protect biological diversity--and could work effectively and powerfully together to protect the planet and preserve biological diversity. Yet for more than a hundred years, these two forces have been at odds. The result: thousands of unmanageable protected areas and native peoples reduced to poaching and trespassing on their ancestral lands or "assimilated" but permanently indentured on the lowest rungs of the money economy. Dowie begins with the story of Yosemite National Park, which by the turn of the twentieth century established a template for bitter encounters between native peoples and conservation. He then describes the experiences of other groups, ranging from the Ogiek and Maasai of eastern Africa and the Pygmies of Central Africa to the Karen of Thailand and the Adevasis of India. He also discusses such issues as differing definitions of "nature" and "wilderness," the influence of the "BINGOs" (Big International NGOs, including the Worldwide Fund for Nature, Conservation International, and The Nature Conservancy), the need for Western scientists to respect and honor traditional lifeways, and the need for native peoples to blend their traditional knowledge with the knowledge of modern ecology. When conservationists and native peoples acknowledge the interdependence of biodiversity conservation and cultural survival, Dowie writes, they can together create a new and much more effective paradigm for conservation.
Dudley Edmondson believes it is critical for people of color to get involved in nature conservation. He sought out 20 African Americans with connections to nature. The result is a compelling look at issues important to the future of public lands.