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Engaging NatureEnvironmentalism and the Political Theory Canon$
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Peter F. Cannavò and Joseph H. Lane Jr.

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780262028059

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262028059.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MIT PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.mitpress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The MIT Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MITSO for personal use.date: 03 July 2022

W. E. B. Du Bois: Racial Inequality and Alienation from Nature

W. E. B. Du Bois: Racial Inequality and Alienation from Nature

(p.223) 12 W. E. B. Du Bois: Racial Inequality and Alienation from Nature
Engaging Nature

Kimberly K. Smith

The MIT Press

Kimberly K. Smith explores W. E. B. Du Bois’s largely unrecognized insights into how racism distorts our relationship with the natural world. For African-Americans, according to Du Bois, racial segregation and prejudice fostered placelessness and alienation from a landscape to which they were denied ownership rights. Moreover, segregation prevented African-Americans from visiting national parks and wilderness areas and thus limited their access to the scenic landscapes that transformed how white Americans regarded nature. Du Bois shows how racism and blindness toward suffering and oppression also distorted white Americans’ relationship with nature, as many whites could not comprehend complex landscapes and their troubled human histories, but could only appreciate phony, picture-perfect idealizations of nature. However, for Du Bois, healing Americans’ relationship with nature involves more than equal access to wilderness or appreciating the landscape in its historical complexity. For African-Americans in particular, the experience of slavery and long-standing disenfranchisement from land ownership mean that overcoming alienation from nature requires property ownership – either private or collective—and physical transformation of the land through agriculture and gardening.

Keywords:   W.E.B. Du Bois, Darkwater (Du Bois), The Souls of Black Folk (Du Bois), The Quest of the Silver Fleece (Du Bois), environmental political theory, racism, African-Americans, wilderness, agriculture, Frederick Douglass

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