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Toward Black Environmental Imaginations

October 21, 2021
04:00 PM to 05:30 PM
Carlyn E. Ferrari discusses how individuals such as W. E. B. Du Bois had deep, intimate connections with the natural world, pointing to a rich legacy of Black environmental thought.


The history of racism and colonial landownership and power in the United States has led to the propagation of the idea that Black individuals do not have an innate connection to or interest in the natural world, resulting in a myth of Black environmental apathy. Black writers like W. E. B. Du Bois and Anne Spencer were quite forward-thinking and were “green” before it was fashionable. They were critical of industrialization and advocated an antidominion relationship with the natural world that positioned human beings as stewards, not owners, of the earth. They were far from apathetic; rather, they viewed environmentalism as an urgent moral imperative, in part because it is inextricably linked to racial equality. This talk explores how  twentieth-century Black writers, gardeners, civil rights activists, and musicians had deep, intimate connections with the natural world; their meditations point to the rich legacy of Black environmental thought and invite further study into how Black cultural and thought leaders theorize the natural world. 

Carlyn Ferrari (Seattle University) is an assistant professor of English at Seattle University, where she teaches courses on Black literature and culture. Her research explores the relationship between Black feminism and ecocriticism. She is currently working on two book projects about poet and civil rights activist Anne Spencer.

General View of Townsite from Vicinity of Clementine Vaughn House, Nicodemus Historic District, Nicodemus, Graham County, Kansas. Survey HABS KS-49, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, DC