Black on Earth: African American Ecoliterary Traditions by Kimberly Ruffin

By Kimberly Ruffin

American environmental literature has relied seriously at the views of eu american citizens, frequently ignoring different teams. In Black on Earth, Kimberly Ruffin expands the achieve of ecocriticism by means of examining the ecological reports, conceptions, and wishes noticeable in African American writing.

Ruffin identifies a conception of “ecological burden and sweetness” during which African American authors underscore the ecological burdens of dwelling inside of human hierarchies within the social order simply as they discover the ecological great thing about being part of the usual order. Blacks have been ecological brokers ahead of the emergence of yankee nature writing, argues Ruffin, and their views are severe to knowing the whole scope of ecological thought.

Ruffin examines African American ecological insights from the antebellum period to the twenty-first century, contemplating WPA slave narratives, neo–slave poetry, novels, essays, and documentary movies, via such artists as Octavia Butler, Alice Walker, Henry Dumas, Percival Everett, Spike Lee, and Jayne Cortez. opting for subject matters of labor, slavery, faith, mythology, track, and citizenship, Black on Earth highlights the ways that African American writers are visionary ecological artists.

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I don’t want ’em. You can have de busses an’ street cars an’ hot pavements an high buildin’ caze I ain’t got no use for ’em no way. But I’ll tell you “Toil and Soil” 37 what I does want. I wants my ole cotton bed an’ de moonlight nights a shinin’ through de willow trees an’ de cool grass under my feets as I runned roun’ ketchin’ lightin’ bugs. I wants to hear de sound of de hounds in de woods atter de ’possum, an’ de smell of fresh mowed hay. I wants to feel de sway of de ol’ wagon a-goin’ down de red, dusty road an’ listen to de wheels groanin’ as dey rolls along.

6, 22). Patricia Klindienst notes that this agricultural legacy has not disappeared. In her contemporary study of the “Gardens of Two Gullah Elders” in St. Helena Island, South Carolina, she writes, “In their gardens [the enslaved] . . 5 This “love for the land” produced a tangible commitment to the self and nonhuman nature through agriculture. It helped African Americans use work to “achiev[e] a bodily knowledge of the natural world” (R. White 172) and express dedication to their own “Toil and Soil” 33 survival.

Rawick, Georgia Narratives, vol. 6 At the very moment they were trying to nourish themselves physically, children were met with the message that nonhuman animals and African Americans shared the same status. Whether they were trying to keep the domestic animals from stealing food from the children’s mouths or resisting the idea that they should be fed in this manner, the children’s attempt to shield themselves from contact with dog and pig tongues asserts the idea that they are different from nonhuman animals.

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