Nature and the Environment: Books by Black Authors

BIPOC environmentalists, scientists, and creators have contributed greatly to our understanding and appreciation of the world around us, but their contributions are often ignored or overshadowed by their White counterparts. These books, written by Black authors, celebrate the natural world, inform us of our place in it, and discuss the complicated relationship between race and our environment.

Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape by Lauret Edith Savoy
Through personal journeys and historical inquiry, this PEN Literary Award finalist explores how America’s still unfolding history and ideas of ‘race’ have marked its people and the land.

The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature by J. Drew Lanham
As his passion for the natural world takes flight, Drew begins to ask what it means to be “the rare bird, the oddity”-to find joy and freedom in the same land his ancestors were tied to by forced labor, and then to be a black man in a profoundly white field.

Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry edited by Camille T Dungy
The editor has selected 180 poems from 93 poets that provide unique perspectives on American social and literary history to broaden our concept of nature poetry and African American poetics. It also brings to the fore a neglected and vital means of considering poetry by African Americans and nature-related poetry as a whole.

The Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity, and the Natural World edited by Alison H Deming and Lauret E Savoy
Including work from more than thirty contributors of widely diverse backgrounds, this collection works against the grain of a traditional blind spot by exploring the relationship between culture and place, emphasizing the lasting value of cultural heritage, and revealing how this wealth of perspectives is essential to building a livable future.

Among Flowers: A Walk in the Himalaya by Jamaica Kincaid
In this travel memoir, the acclaimed novelist Jamaica Kincaid chronicles a three-week trek through Nepal, the spectacular and exotic Himalayan land, where she and her companions are gathering seeds for planting at home. 

Black Faces, White Spaces by Carolyn Finney 
In this thought-provoking study, Carolyn Finney looks beyond the discourse of the environmental justice movement to examine how the natural environment has been understood, commodified, and represented by both white and black Americans. 

The Unlikely Thru-Hiker: An Appalachian Trail Journey by Derick Lugo
The memoir of a young African American man from New York City who decides to attempt a thru-hike of the entire 2,190-mile Appalachian Trial.

Unbowed: A Memoir by Wangari Muta Maathai
Maathai, the winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and a single mother of three, recounts her life as a political activist, feminist, and environmentalist in Kenya.

A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind by Harriet A. Washington
Washington takes apart the spurious notion of intelligence as an inherited trait, using copious data that instead point to a different cause of the reported African American-white IQ gap: environmental racism that relegates marginalized communities to living and working near sites of toxic waste, pollution, and insufficient sanitation services.

Green Deen: What Islam Teaches about Protecting the Planet by Ibrahim Abdul-Matin 
 In this groundbreaking book, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin draws on research, scripture, and interviews with Muslim Americans to trace Islam’s preoccupation with humankind’s collective role as stewards of the Earth. 

Gloryland by Shelton Johnson 
Having patrolled Yosemite for more than two decades, author and park ranger Shelton Johnson delivers this fictionalized tribute to its healing grandeur. 

Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility by Dorceta E Taylor
Drawing on an array of historical and contemporary case studies from across the country, Taylor explores controversies over racially-motivated decisions in zoning laws, eminent domain, government regulation, and urban renewal.

Rooted In The Earth by Dianne D. Glave 
With a basis in environmental history, this groundbreaking study challenges the idea that a meaningful attachment to nature and the outdoors is contrary to the black experience. 

All the Colors We Will See: Reflections on Barriers, Brokenness, and Finding Our Way by Patrice Gopo 
Patrice seamlessly moves across borders of space and time to create vivid portraits of how the reality of being different affects her quest to belong. In this poetic and often courageous collection of essays, Patrice examines the complexities of identity in our turbulent yet hopeful time of intersecting heritages.