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To Love the Wind and the Rain

To Love the Wind and the Rain: African Americans and Environmental History

Dianne D. Glave
Mark Stoll
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    To Love the Wind and the Rain
    Book Description:

    "To Love the Wind and the Rain" is a groundbreaking and vivid analysis of the relationship between African Americans and the environment in U.S. history. It 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. Meticulously researched, the essays cover subjects including slavery, hunting, gardening, religion, the turpentine industry, outdoor recreation, women, and politics. "To Love the Wind and the Rain" will serve as an excellent foundation for future studies in African American environmental history.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7290-7
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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    (pp. ix-xii)

    President Theodore Roosevelt was on a ten-day bear hunt in the dense canebrakes of the Mississippi Delta in 1907. “I must see a live bear the first day,” he told his guides. Holt Collier, African American hunter par excellence, and his trained dogs set out to track the quarry. In advance of the party, Collier trailed and drove a bear into the lake and, with his best dog, plunged into the water: “I slicked up the rope with the blue mud from the bottom…. I kicked the bear and he stuck his head up. While he was shaking the water...

  2. 1 African American Environmental History: AN INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-8)

    “To Love the Wind and the Rain”: African Americans and Environmental Historyevolved from a frustrating sense that African American perceptions of the environment—illustrated by metaphors of nature as lynching in “Strange Fruit”—remain invisible for the most part.¹ Critical elements in the development of American environmental history, particularly the complexities of race, ethnicity, gender, and class in which African Americans have had to live, work, and play, are revealed in the songs and stories of many lives.

    One such story is that of Thomas Calhoun Walker, an African American who was the Advisor and Consultant of Negro Affairs...

  3. 2 Slavery and the Origins of African American Environmentalism
    (pp. 9-20)

    As the literature on environmental racism and justice continues to flourish, scholars need to look more closely at the deep history of the relationship of African Americans to the environment. The environmental values and political tactics and goals of African American environmentalism reconfigure themselves with each issue, but the core character of environmental values and tactics has a quality that can be illuminated by a study of the past experience of African Americans and the environment. Scholars now recognize that an understanding of African American political culture requires an understanding of the long history of slavery in the United States....

  4. 3 Slave Hunting and Fishing in the Antebellum South
    (pp. 21-36)

    Throughout the nineteenth century, the fields, forests, and streams of the American South were important economic and cultural battlegrounds in the wider conflict between white and black southerners. In both the antebellum and post-emancipation periods, hunting and fishing were bound to this larger conflict.¹ Southern elites used hunting and fishing to set themselves apart from slaves and freed people and to reinforce their legal, economic, and cultural control over African Americans. For their part, slaves and freed people protected their customary reliance on hunting and fishing in order to challenge that control and resist efforts to define such activities as...

  5. 4 Rural African American Women, Gardening, and Progressive Reform in the South
    (pp. 37-50)

    To plant their flower and vegetable gardens, African American women used their hands—darkly creviced or smoothly freckled; their arms—some wiry, others muscled; and their shoulders and backs—one broad and another thin. They dropped small seeds into the soil with their veined hands. They wrapped their arms around freshly cut flowers to decorate tables in their homes. They bent their shoulders and backs to compost hay, manure, and field stubble, and transplanted plants from the woods into their own yards. These women developed a unique set of perspectives on the environment by way of the gardens they grew...

  6. 5 Turpentine Negro
    (pp. 51-62)

    Studies have documented the gap between African American and white interaction with the natural environment: generally, African Americans are less likely than whites to visit wildland recreation areas or to participate in forest-based outdoor recreation.¹ Other studies also indicate that African Americans show less environmental concern, although more recent work indicates similar concern levels. These differences have been found even when place of residence and access to wildland resources are controlled. Various explanations have been given to account for these differences, including ethnicity and marginality.² This chapter examines an aspect of marginality theory by examining African American labor in relationship...

  7. 6 African Americans, Outdoor Recreation, and the 1919 Chicago Race Riot
    (pp. 63-76)

    Since the late 1960s, practitioners in the field of environmental history have labored to make nature a critical category of historical analysis, and over the past three decades, their insights have altered the ways in which historians, environmentalists, and even the larger public understand the relationship between nature and culture. But in exploring this relationship, environmental historians have often downplayed differences within human cultures, especially along lines of race, class, and gender. As historian Alan Taylor points out, when it comes to human history, environmental historians tend to “lump” rather than “split.”¹

    More recently, though, the field is paying far...

  8. 7 Women, Environmental Rationale, and Activism during the Progressive Era
    (pp. 77-92)

    Reformers who emerged during the Progressive Era to challenge some of the growing problems of urbanization and industrialization generally shared several characteristics. They each reflected: “a desire to bring order out of the chaos induced by the economic revolution of the nineteenth century. They shared a faith in humankind and an environmental determinism, which led them to expect that the good in people would prevail if the evils produced by imperfect social, political, and physical circumstances were eliminated. They also placed their faith in an expert elite and in the scientific method to solve society’s problems.”¹ In addition to this...

  9. 8 Nature and Blackness in Suburban Passage
    (pp. 93-119)

    In the study of his house of forty years in Wyandanch, New York, Eugene Burnett, a longtime veteran of Long Island’s civil rights movement, leaned back in his chair and summed up what he thought of environmentalists. “I’ve had some fundamental disagreements with them,” he recalled. “Just to focus on that … that’s a white issue …”¹

    Burnett’s sense of a divide between the causes of the environment and civil rights has a long history. Ever since Earth Day, many civil rights leaders have looked askance at self-identified “environmentalists” as promoting an agenda at odds with their own. The environmental...

  10. 9 Environmental Justice, Ecoracism, and Environmental History
    (pp. 120-132)

    Influenced by European Romanticism, Americans have thought and written about their relationship to the physical world at least since the beginning of the nineteenth century. The earliest works of environmental history, concerning the United States at least, were written primarily in the 1930s and 1940s and focused on the West. But American environmental history as a distinct field of study that possessed a wide range of nuance and topic did not take shape until the late 1960s with the emergence of the modern environmental movement.

    Although it drew enthusiastic support from college students and others caught up in the political...

  11. 10 Identity Politics and Multiracial Coalitions in the Environmental Justice Movement
    (pp. 133-149)

    The environmental movement, like other social movements, has succeeded, in part, by representing and reinforcing a collective identity of members and potential members. People join because the movement “expresses something essential to their sense of self.”¹ Yet the environmental movement long excluded the poor and people of color and neglected to address the potential for disproportionate impacts of environmental risks either directly from pollution or indirectly through unintended consequences of regulations.² Beginning in the early 1980s, environmental justice activists confronted the underlying elitism in the environmental movement and demanded that environmentalists address the characteristics, values, and experiences of people who...

  12. 11 Religion and African American Environmental Activism
    (pp. 150-163)

    In October 1991, three hundred delegates gathered in Washington DC for the People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit. Among the first to address the audience gathered in the conference room of the Washington Court Hotel were the leaders of two of the most prominent national environmental organizations: Michael Fischer, executive director of the Sierra Club, and John Adams, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Both these white men took great pains to profess their sympathy for the environmental problems of minorities, confess their organizations’ historical failure to address minority issues, and assert the need for environmental racial unity....

  13. 12 Politicized Memories in the Struggle for Miami’s Virginia Key Beach
    (pp. 164-188)

    On numerous occasions from the late 1950s until the end of his life, Martin Luther King Jr. visited Miami. He stayed at Hampton House, the all-black resort in Brownsville, relaxed with friends, went fishing in Biscayne Bay and swam at the area’s only “colored beach,” Virginia Key, a one-thousand-acre island between Miami and Key Biscayne. From 1945 until the late 1950s, it was the only place that blacks could officially go in order to bathe in Biscayne Bay. King loved coming to Miami to relax. He is even reported to have made an early version of his “I Have a...

  14. 13 Black Environmental Liberation Theology
    (pp. 189-199)

    In the United States, the government and corporations have long targeted people of color and the poor—including African Americans—by dumping toxins and garbage into marginalized neighborhoods. Some African Americans who are working to remedy these injustices to the African American community have applied a Christian framework to their activism. This model of Christian self-empowerment for environmental justice owes much to Martin Luther King Jr. In 1955, King transformed Rosa Parks’s refusal to sit in the back of the bus into a church-based movement igniting the mid-twentieth-century civil rights movement. Throughout his ministry of nonviolent activism, King defined social...

  15. 14 Reflections on the Purposes and Meanings of African American Environmental History
    (pp. 200-210)

    This book provides a foundation for a deeper understanding of contemporary struggles for sustainability and justice. It addresses some of the ruptures that African Americans have experienced in their relationship to the natural world. This volume contains many surprises, forcing us to think more carefully about what we mean by our relationship to the environment. More fundamentally, it is an invitation to think differently about who we are as a people.

    Much of environmental history has been written out of concerns for the fate of nature in Western culture—the destruction of the forests; the degradation of landscapes; the loss...