January 23, 2008

Book Review - African American Environmental Thought

African American Environmental Thought: Foundations
Kimberly K. Smith
E 185.6 .S63 2007

While African American intellectuals such as W.E.B. DuBois, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and others are well known for their thinking on civil rights and American politics, Smith reveals in this book that they also have a considerable amount to contribute to the relationship of people to their environment. Emerging from discussions of scientific racism, slavery, and primitivism, Smith observes that ideas about freedom and equality in African American thought spill over to ideas about the relationship between humans and nature. Drawing on literature from the abolition movement through the Harlem renaissance, Smith brings to our attention African American ideas around owning and farming land to the politics and social conditions around urban development. This book is clearly an overview of a long-standing collection of ideas about nature and the environment that have been a part of African American thought, but one that has been previously unexplored by scholars. This opens up new avenues for consideration by American environmentalists.