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Black Faces, White Spaces

Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 194
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  • Book Info
    Black Faces, White Spaces
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-1450-2
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Sociology, Population Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xx)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    In May 2006,Vanity Fair, a monthly magazine with national distribution, published a special issue focusing on environmental issues. Labeled the “Green Issue,” it had such celebrities as Julia Roberts and George Clooney, resplendent in green, alongside politicians Al Gore and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., gracing its cover. Inside the issue, Al Gore outlined the global warming “crisis” and then shared the “good news” that “we can solve this crisis, and as we finally do accept the truth of our situation and turn to boldly face down the danger that is stalking us, we will find that it is also...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Bamboozled
    (pp. 21-31)

    While working on this book, I watched the movieFar and Away, starring Tom Cruise as the son of a poor Irish farmer and Nicole Kidman as the daughter of a wealthy landowner, set in the 1800s. (I had seen it before.) It focuses on Europeans, both rich and poor, who were driven to leave their homes in Europe and come to the United States, seduced by the promise of land ownership. I was particularly intrigued by the lengths people would go to claim and name land for themselves and their families. At one point in the film, when Cruise’s...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Jungle Fever
    (pp. 32-50)

    A picture speaks a thousand words. In the case of the April 2008 cover ofVoguemagazine featuring famous sports figure LeBron James and supermodel Gisele Bündchen, a picture can also generate controversy, frustration, and charges of racial insensitivity (Sullivan 2008).¹ The image of six-foot, nine-inch James, the first black man to grace the cover ofVogue, with a menacing grimace on his face and in an aggressive stance while lightly holding the fair-haired Ms. Bündchen, bore an uncanny resemblance to a 1917 recruitment poster featuring a menacing gorilla holding a white woman that reads “Destroy This Mad Brute—Enlist”...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Forty Acres and a Mule
    (pp. 51-66)

    In the summer of 2000, theNew York Timesran an eight-week series on race in America. One story focused on the Magnolia Plantation, a symbol of the Old South in Natchitoches, Louisiana. For Betty Hertzog, who owned the land and who had spent her life in the main house built by her ancestors, the financial burden of maintaining the home and the accompanying land became too much to bear. At the behest of a wealthy friend, Hertzog agreed to turn over part of Magnolia Plantation to the National Park Service (NPS). She thought it was an opportunity to “preserve...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Black Faces
    (pp. 67-91)

    Hurricane Katrina is considered one of the worst natural disasters in our country’s history. On August 29, 2005, the first Category 5 hurricane of the year slammed into Louisiana and Mississippi, leading to a breach in the 17th Street canal levee in New Orleans and flooding the entire Ninth Ward (Dyson 2006). Images of displaced water and people evoked a sense of helplessness, anger, despair, and shock across the nation and many parts of the world. While we were stunned by Nature’s destructiveness, something else, perhaps more insidious, was taking place.¹ The images of black people “looting” and “shooting” during...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE It’s Not Easy Being Green
    (pp. 92-115)

    On a warm, autumn day in October of 2005, approximately eighty individuals assembled to spend three days at the Summit 2005 conference on “Diverse Partners for Environmental Progress” in Wakefield, Virginia. This historic conversation connected leaders from various environmental, community, and national organizations and movements to “develop a common framework that supports a pro-environment slate of issues” (“Steps for the Future” 2005). An ethnically and racially diverse group (people of color appeared to outnumber European Americans), they ranged from academics to environmental justice supporters, nonprofit groups, and representatives and leaders from the National Park Service, the Trust for Public Lands,...

  10. CHAPTER SIX The Sanctified Church How Sweet It Is
    (pp. 116-136)

    Fear. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is defined as: to have fear in; to have a reverential awe of; and, to be afraid of—some one, some place, some thing that is not necessarily easily defined or seen. In my capacity as a scholar-activist, and as an African American, I have been asked, particularly by white environmentalists, journalists, and scholars, about the role that fear plays in shaping the collective African American environmental relationship. Throughout this book, I have shared a few examples of how fear might inform that relationship, particularly in shaping the individual’s perspective. In this chapter, I...

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 137-138)

    Not long ago, I was visiting my parents in Leesburg, Virginia, and they told me about a letter they had received from one of their old neighbors in Mamaroneck, New York. Enclosed in the note from their neighbor was a letter from the Westchester Land Trust. The trust had determined that the property my family lived on and worked for fifty years had “extensive scenic, naturally wooded frontage” and because it’s in the Mamaroneck River Watershed (the river is subject to flooding), protecting the property from further development could help prevent further flooding. The trust also determined that the large,...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 139-150)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 151-162)
  14. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 163-166)
  15. Index
    (pp. 167-173)