Book club to examine how nature and the environment are racialized in America

March 24, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State community is invited to join a virtual book club, hosted by Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, that will examine how the natural environment has been understood, commodified and represented by both white and Black Americans.

Participants will discuss Carolyn Finney’s “Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors” for four Thursday evening Zoom sessions beginning April 8. For the last meeting, Finney will join the participants for an intimate and thought-provoking conversation.    

Registration is required at the Shaver's Creek event webpage.  

“Black Faces, White Spaces” dives into the under-representation of African Americans in nature, outdoor recreation and environmentalism through the lenses of environmental history, studies on race and culture, and geography. Finney argues that the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow and racial violence have shaped cultural understandings of the "great outdoors" and determined who should and can have access to natural spaces.

Finney, an assistant professor of geography at the University of Kentucky, is a storyteller, author and cultural geographer. Along with public speaking, writing, media engagements, consulting and teaching, she served on the U.S. National Parks Advisory Board for eight years and released her first book, “Black Faces, White Spaces” in 2014. Finney has been a Fulbright Scholar and a Canon National Parks Science Scholar, and received a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in environmental studies.

Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center — a Penn State Outreach service — is the University’s outdoor education field lab and nature center, and provides a variety of educational and recreational opportunities for families, schools and Penn State students, faculty and staff.

Karen Armstrong, director of inclusion, equity and diversity for Penn State Outreach and Online Education, said it’s important for this type of activity to be available to the Penn State community.

“This event is another reflection of Outreach and Online Education’s eagerness to infuse inclusion, equity and diversity into the Penn State community,” she said. “Finney provides a lens based on her research and personal experiences as an African American environmentalist that is deeply moving. I'm grateful to Shaver's Creek for providing the chance to speak with the author.”

Visit the Shaver’s Creek website for more information about the book club, which is co-sponsored by Webster’s Bookstore Café.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 15, 2021