Recommended by Lauren Gay, Creator of Misadventures of Outdoorsy Diva
Does “Mother Nature” discriminate? A recent study done by the national parks showed what many people of color already knew: most of the visitors, rangers and volunteers are white. Why are people of color less likely to take advantage of the national parks or take part in outdoor activities? Explore the history of racism in America’s outdoor spaces, learn about the implications of exploring the outdoors while black or brown, read about experiences of people of color who do enjoy the outdoors, and find out where you can travel to learn about Black history in America’s national parks.
America’s Great White Outdoors
Video News Report | ABC News
America’s National Parks and public lands have long been places of refuge in times of turmoil. But new government data, first shared with ABC News, shows people of color are less likely to take advantage of the Great Outdoors. Devin Dwyer reports on U.S. national parks facing an existential crisis over a lack of diversity among visitors. Watch on ABCnews.go.com
Made for You and Me
Podcast Episode | NPR’s Code Switch
There’s a stereotype that people of color do not “go there” when it comes to the outdoors. But, there are actually numbers from the National Park Service to back this up. And there are real reasons, both historical and contemporary, that can make stepping outside in your free time while black or brown a politically charged move. At the same time, there are some really interesting organizations and individuals pushing the boundaries of what "being outdoorsy" looks like. Join hosts Shereen Marisol Meraji and Adrian Florido for the Code Switch Podcast, Episode 2: Made For You And Me, as they explore what it means to be a person of color outdoors. 20-minute listen. Listen on NPR.org
Black Faces, White Spaces
Non-Fiction Book | Carolyn Finney
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. Buy the book & support Road Scholar!
Jogging While Black (Podcast) & Camping While Black (Blog Post)
Podcast Episode & Blog Post | Outdoorsy Diva
Lauren Gay is a professional traveler, content creator, and self-proclaimed “Outdoorsy Diva.” She is also a Black woman and an avid supporter and advocate for encouraging African Americans to experience the great outdoors. Read her perspectives on what it’s like to often be the only person of color in outdoor spaces. Gay discusses the implications of exploring and traveling in predominately white spaces, the inherent dangers, and the impact that tragedies like this have on black Americans, particularly as it relates to the ability to feel safe while enjoying outdoor recreation. Read the Blog or Listen to the Podcast
People of Color and Their Constraints to National Parks Visitation
Research Paper | David Scott & KangJae Jerry Lee
The United States population is becoming more ethnically and racially diverse. More than one-third of all Americans can be classified as a person of color, and the proportion of ethnic and racial minorities is projected to increase in the coming years. Despite this population change, data suggests that people of color visit national parks far less than Whites. This paper aims to identify key factors that constrain national park visitation among people of color to illuminate why people of color do not make greater use of NPS areas, particularly those parks that are remote and where outdoor recreation and scenery are major attractions. This brief review was created to aid NPS staff and its partners as they continue to diversify the park service and create programs and offerings that are relevant to a broader spectrum of Americans. Read the Paper
US Ranger on Mission to Attract More African Americans to National Parks
News Article | VOA News
When Deb Haaland was sworn in as Secretary of the Interior recently, the Native American former congresswoman became the nation’s top official in charge of most federal land. Her responsibilities include the National Park Service (NPS), which is trying to address a lack of diversity. This article explores the history of racism in the national park system and one park ranger who has made it his mission to tell park visitors the whole history of Yosemite. Read the Article
Betty Reid Soskin
When Betty Reid Soskin retired in 2022 at the age of 100, she was the nation’s oldest park ranger—serving at the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California. She also happens to be a Black woman. Learn about the remarkable life of this remarkable woman who started a new career in her 80s.
The Way Home: Returning to the National Parks
Documentary Short Film| Dewi Marquis
“You shouldn’t have to convince people to go to paradise,” says Yosemite National Park Ranger Shelton Johnson. As an African American, he is unsettled by the fact that only 1 percent of those who visit Yosemite share his race. “The Way Home: Returning to the National Parks” follows the brief journey of a group of African American seniors from Los Angeles, California, as they experience these sacred lands. Watch the Film
10 National Parks that Honor Black History
Blog Post | National Parks Foundation
Find out where you can learn about Black History across the National Parks System. See the List
Black Cowboys in the American West: On the Range, on the Stage, Behind the Badge
Non-Fiction Book | Ed. Bruce A. Glasrud & Michael N. Searles
Black cowhands remain an integral part of life in the West, the descendants of African Americans who ventured west and helped settle and establish black communities. This long-overdue examination of nineteenth- and twentieth-century black cowboys ensures that they, and their many stories and experiences, will continue to be known and told. Buy the book & support Road Scholar!
These People of Color Transformed U.S. National Parks
Online Article | National Geographic
Read about some of the Black and brown Americans who have been a part of the heritage and history of America’s national parks. Read the Article
The Unlikely Thru-Hiker: An Appalachian Trail Journey
Memoir | Derick Lugo
Guide Derick Lugo had never been hiking, but, with a job cut short and no immediate plans, this fixture of the New York comedy scene began to think about what he might do with months of free time. He had heard of the Appalachian Trail, but he had never seriously considered attempting to hike all 2,192 miles of it. Suddenly he found himself asking, Could he do it? “The Unlikely Thru-Hiker” is the story of a young black man setting off from the city with an extremely overweight pack and a willfully can-do attitude. What follows are lessons on preparation, humility, race relations, and nature's wild unpredictability. Buy the book & support Road Scholar!
The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature
Memoir | J. Drew Lanham
Meet the extraordinary people of Edgefield County, South Carolina, including Drew himself, who over the course of the 1970s falls in love with the natural world around him. By turns angry, funny, elegiac, and heartbreaking, “The Home Place” is a remarkable meditation on nature and belonging, at once a deeply moving memoir and riveting exploration of the contradictions of black identity in the rural South — and in America today. Buy the book & support Road Scholar!
Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry
Poetry Collection | Ed. By Camille T. Dungy
“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. Buy the book & support Road Scholar!
Fiction Book | Shelton Johnson
Born on Emancipation Day, 1863, to a sharecropping family of black and Indian blood, Elijah Yancy never lived as a slave--but his self-image as a free person is at war with his surroundings: Spartanburg, South Carolina, in the Reconstructed South. Exiled as a teenager, Elijah walks west to the Nebraska plains and, like other rootless young African-American men of that era, joins up with the US cavalry. Elijah ultimately finds a home when his troop is posted to the newly created Yosemite National Park in 1903. Here, living with little beyond mountain light, running water, campfires, and stars, he becomes a man who owns himself completely. Buy the book & support Road Scholar!
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