Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2023

Course Description

I Am Black and the Trees Are Green so you point and say the woods are beautiful like men standing on shores of Africa enjoying the sun on their skin the white sand touch the water blue the new slaves as invisible as conversation E. Ethelbert Miller from Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry edited by Camille Dungy Most of us can agree that “the woods are beautiful.” And for many people their environmentalism, their commitment to working against the threats to “the woods” and the animals and what we sometimes call “nature” or “the environment” begins with that simple belief: “the woods are beautiful.” This semester, we will rethink what we mean by the environment beginning with this poem by E. Ethelbert Miller. What is invisible to us when we view the environment? A history of slavery? The markers of our own identities? The particular economic and social systems in which we are enmeshed? Our religious, spiritual and scientific beliefs? Through readings, listenings, and viewings, we will surely rethink the environment and what we mean and understand as “nature,” “wild,” and “wilderness.” We will consider what it might take to repair centuries if not millennia of environmental degradation and viewpoints that separate humans from the environment. We’ll look at some history of environmentalism as well as the racism, sexism, and a disregard or indigenous rights that were embedded in the first conservation movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And that’s just the first weeks.