Whose Nature Is It? Resources on Race and Inclusion in the Outdoors

race in the outdoors
PAULA CHAMPAGNEBlack, Indigenous, and People of Color have too often felt excluded from outdoor spaces. AMC remains committed to the protection and enjoyment of the outdoors for all people.

 

AMC is committed to increasing access to and engagement with the outdoors for all people. That requires grappling with the hard truth that the outdoors has often not been a safe space for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)—a history that has deeply affected the relationship between these communities and the land today. Many predominately white outdoors and conservation organizations, including AMC, have either complicitly or explicitly supported racist and exclusionary practices. We as an organization are doing the work to study this troubling history and account for our role in it, and we invite all AMC members and supporters to join us on this journey of education and accountability. We welcome your feedback and stories, too, at amcpublications@outdoors.org.

Here are some resources to start or continue this journey with us:

Systemic Barriers

These resources pertain to current and historic systemic barriers to accessing outdoor recreation opportunities.

Environmentalism’s Racist History,” Jedediah Purdy, The New Yorker, August 13, 2015

America’s Great White Outdoors,” ABC News
The National Parks face an existential crisis over a lack of diversity among their visitors.

We Got Us,” YouTube
In an ongoing effort to elevate Black voices and provide allyship resources, José González facilitated a conversation with Dr. Carolyn Finney, Faith E. Briggs, Teresa Baker, and C.J. Goulding.

Racial Complexities of Outdoor Spaces: An Analysis of African American’s Lived Experiences in Outdoor Recreation,” Matthew Charles Goodrid, University of the Pacific

The Unbearable Whiteness of Hiking and How to Solve It,” Lornett Vestall, The Sierra Club, December 7, 2016

The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors, James Mills, Mountaineers Books, 2014

Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors, Carolyn Finney, UNC Press, 2014

 

Acadia National Park in Maine.
STEFAN BOLLMAN / AMC PHOTO CONTESTAcadia National Park in Maine.

Public Lands

These resources pertain to the establishment, history, and current state of federal public lands in the United States.

Why we must teach the ugly side of public lands history + a tool to help,” Paul Sanford, The Wilderness Society, December 5, 2019

The benefits of public wildlands, explained,” Marcy Franklin, Vox, October 9, 2017

Federal Public Land Types: What They Are and How to Protect Them,” Emma Castleberry, AMC Outdoors, January 4, 2021

Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks, Mark David Spence (2000)

 

Conservation and Racism

Dating to the late 19th century, the modern American conservation movement has too often been rooted in white supremacy.

Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States, Carl A. Zimring (2017)

Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage, Dianne D. Glave (2010)

The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection, Dorceta E. Taylor, Duke University Press, 2016

Pulling Down Our Monuments,” Michael Brune, Sierra Club, 2020
Note: In 2020, the Sierra Club acknowledged and examined its role in perpetuating white supremacy, including the racism of its founder, John Muir.

The Myth of John James Audubon,” Gregory Nobles, Audubon, 2020
Note: In 2020, Audubon examined the white supremacist views of the organization’s slave-owning namesake.

 

PHOTO BY WILL PARSON/CHESAPEAKE BAY PROGRAM VIA FLICKR COMMONSVirginia’s Natural Bridge State Park, near where Capt. John Smith first encountered Indigenous People in North America.

Indigenous Studies

Nearly all the land we now enjoy, including millions of acres across AMC’s region, was once inhabited and stewarded by Indigenous People.

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Beacon Press, 2015

The Voice of the Dawn: An Autohistory of the Abenaki Nation, Frederick Matthew Wiseman, 2001

Twelve Thousand Years: American Indians in Maine, Bruce Borque, Bison Books, 2004

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Milkweed Editions, 2020

 

Marinel de Jesus
COURTESY OF MARINEL DE JESUSWriter Marinel de Jesus has experienced racism while leading and participating in treks around the world.

 

BIPOC Narratives

Stories from BIPOC about their enjoyment and protection of (and challenges in) outdoor spaces. 

As an Immigrant Woman of Color, Invisibility Kept Me Safe—Until it Didn’t, Marinel de Jesus, AMC Outdoors, July 27, 2020

We Didn’t Expect to See You: Racism and Profiling on KatahdinJuan Michael Porter II, AMC Outdoors, August 25, 2020

Katina Grays (video), Outdoor Afro

Estamos Aquí (video), Latino Outdoors

The Unlikely Thru-Hiker, Derick Lugo, AMC Books, 2020

Way Out There: Adventures of a Wilderness Trekker, J.R. Harris, Mountaineers Books, 2017

The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature, J. Drew Lanham, 2017


 

About the Author…

AMC Outdoors

AMC Outdoors inspires people to engage in outdoor conservation and recreation through meaningful stories.

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