The beginning of the 20th century marked a new phase of the battle for civil rights in America. But many of the era's most important African-American writers were also acutely aware of the importance of environmental justice to the struggle. Civil Rights and the Environment in African-American Literature is the first book to explore the centrality of environmental problems to writing from the civil rights movement in the early decades of the century. Bringing ecocritical perspectives to bear on the work of such important writers as Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, the writers of the Harlem Renaissance and Depression-era African-American writing, This book brings to light a vital new perspective on ecocriticism and modern American literary history.
1. Up from Nature: Racial Uplift and Ecological Agencies in Booker T. Washington's Autobiographies
2. W. E. B. Du Bois at the Grand Canyon: Nature, History, and Race in Darkwater
3. The Crisis, the Politics of Nature, and the Harlem Renaissance: Effie Lee Newsome's Eco-poetics
4. Sawmills and Swamps: Ecological Collectives in Zora Neale Hurston's Mules and Men and Their Eyes Were Watching God
5. From Black Marxism to Industrial Ecosystem: Racial and Ecological Crisis in William Attaway's Blood on the Forge
John Claborn is Lecturer in English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA.
"Claborn's book offers an important account of the profound intersection between anti-racist and environmental struggles in the first half of the twentieth century. Civil Rights and the Environment reveals how deeply entwined those struggles were for a range of African American writers in the period, and in doing so brings to light a vital history of African American environmental justice activism."
– Paul Outka, Author of Race and Nature from Transcendentalism to the Harlem Renaissance and Associate Professor of English, University of Kansas, USA
"This invaluable study combines environmental history and ecocriticism to show that African American writers and civil-rights leaders often connected environmental responsibility to social and economic justice. Claborn brilliantly analyzes familiar writers such as Washington, Du Bois, and Hurston, while devoting welcome attention to neglected writers such as Effie Lee Newsome."
– David Anderson, Associate Professor of English, University of Louisville, USA
"Jon Claborn investigates intersections between early 20th-century civil rights activism and environmental consciousness. This necessary re-examination of American literature and environmental thought is the book I've been waiting for!"
– Camille T. Dungy, author of Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys Into Race, Motherhood, and History