(If you read my Nonfiction November post you already know that Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimaging the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors by Carolyn Finney was on my TBR list under the wander/wonder portion of the themed challenges.)
Finney, in six brilliantly written chapters, examines why African Americans are so underrepresented in nature, outdoor recreation, and environmentalism and the relationship that African Americans have with the environment vs white Americans.
She draws upon; collective memories of slavery and Jim Crow, the timing of the creation and passing of the Wilderness Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, how African Americans are often personified as being animals, and how hard it is for African Americans to see images of themselves engaging with outdoor recreation that goes beyond sports.
One of my favorite portions of this book, and the one that resonated with me the most, is when Finney goes into detail about how more often than not, in flyers or brochures that market outdoor activities African Americans are either not present, pictured terrified of an experience, or working while whites are pictured happily having fun in leisurely recreational activities. It’s something that I’ve actually noticed a lot during my own hikes and travels and it’s nice to see that I wasn’t going crazy or making a big deal out of nothing.
I absolutely loved this book and I loved every second of reading it. Finney’s writing style is incredibly academic and there were a few moments where I did have to pause and actually think about what it was that I just read; which is fantastic.
Let me know if you’ve read this book before, what your thoughts are on nature and the great outdoors, or what some of your biases are concerning outdoor recreation!
Read This Book If:
- You are a PoC and curious about either other’s aversion to nature or your own.
- Curious about the role that race plays in environmentalism.
- Looking to diversify your environmental studies reading selection
Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimaging the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors | by Carolyn Finney | Published by The University of North Carolina Press, 2014 |138 pages (173 counting bibliography + index) | ISBN: 9781469614489
Carolyn Finney, PH.D (black effin’ excellence right thurr), is a writer, performer, and cultural geographer. She’s a professor of Geography at the University of Kentucky and serves on the U.S. National Parks Advisory Board. Black Faces, White Spaces is her first book.